Nymi, a Toronto based start-up that was previously known as Bionym is only four years old, but the company is posed to begin making waves in the field of wearable computing. The company’s flagship, and at this time the primary product, is the bio-metric device that is worn on the wrist, and uses the wearer’s heartbeat for identification, in the same manner that fingerprints and irises are used.
The Nymiband derives its name from the Greek word, which translates to “Name” in English. The wristband contains sensors, which when activated, are sensitive enough to detect the unique pattern of electrical activity in the heart. The signals are converted to digital format and submitted wirelessly for identification. CEO Karl Martin, who has recently taken the helm, sees the potential for the heartbeat signal being used in place of the plethora of passwords that are now required for online users. It can become a much needed layer of security that makes life exceedingly difficult for hackers in the use of biometric devices.
The band is still in an accelerated development stage, with almost 1000 beta-kits being shipped to developers, and Nymi has recently entered testing contactless payment options with MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Canada. It is hoped that the wristband will eventually replace the use of credit and debit cards. More banks are expected to enter the testing phase through the year, and the potential for other applications may seem to be unending as the firm continues to receive suggestions for applications. The auto industry, physical security, health-care and financial services are only a few of the industries for potential application of the biometric device as it is seen to be least invasive, however, the company remains cautiously very optimistic.
The biggest challenge the company faces, is to focus on a few specific areas that must chosen from what seems to be an unlimited number of possibilities.Martin, who recently completed his PhD in engineering, along with partner electrical engineer Foteini Agrafiot, whose work on his doctoral thesis was on the use of cardiac rhythms as a signal for bio-metric devices, appreciates the urgent need for consumers to replace a lengthy list of required passwords at lower levels of security.
The early plan for Nymi, which was then known as BioNym was developed through an incubator program at the University of Toronto. The funding from venture capitalists was not too difficult, although there was some doubt concerning the business model, which centered around licensing the technology to manufacturers such as mobiles and smartphones. More than $14 million was raised in 2014, and following the release of the prototype, the Nymiband went on sale at a cost of $79 per unit.
The focus has now shifted from a consumer orientation, to the enterprise arena, where application of the technology in Wearable Tech has much greater potential for adaption as an industry standard.
The company is still fully cognizant of the risks in an evolving market, and is not focused on competing with the likes of Apple and the iWatch or Apple Pay in Wearable Tech, but is concentrating on carving it’s own space, and so the search continues for the sweet spot that combines Nymi’s biometric identification technology and industry in the most appropriate fashion.