Well publicized, recent security breaches at giant retailers (Home Depot) and financial institutions (JP Morgan Chase and the European Central Bank (ECB)), have caused waves of panic about the security and privacy of sensitive (financial) data. As this threat seems to be ever expanding and detection of security attacks gets more and more problematic, the Canadian startup Bionym has developed a biometric alternative to passwords, PINs, or other time-consuming security details. The Nymi wristband leaves other biometric authentication methods like Apple Pay’s touch ID fingerprint technology for contactless payment behind. It could be used for numerous applications like unlocking devices, remembering passwords, authorizing transactions, or controlling connected devices. The bracelet has an integrated electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor that enables measuring a user’s heartbeats (the electrical activity one’s heart generates), which is unique to every person. Nymi uses the heartbeat signature to authenticate and confirm the user’s identity. There are three levels of security involved: the heart ID, the armband itself and an authorized authentication device like a smartphone (via Bluetooth and a matching app for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android). The user must wear the bracelet on the wrist and touch its top sensor with the opposite hand for it to work.
UK’s Halifax bank’s decision to test Bionym’s technology to allow its clients to make online banking operations in an easy and secure manner is an exemplary initiative. It shows that biometric identification is the future for online banking security. Over the next three years, we expect many innovations in this space – just like Nymi.