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Hands On with the Nymi Band: A Bracelet That Lets You Pay with Your Heartbeat

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech
Nymi Band

The Nymi Band in black. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo Tech)

Sure, it’s convenient to buy things with a fingerprint. But you know what’s even easier? Using your heartbeat.

At least that’s the pitch from the makers of Nymi, a smart bracelet that uses your heartbeat to help you gain access to all your private accounts and information. 

I first wrote about the Nymi Band nearly a year ago, when the company announced it was developing the ability to use the gadget as a method to protect Bitcoin transactions. Now, its creators have finalized the band’s hardware form and are showing it off for the first time at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. I got to try it on and see a brief demo Wednesday. Though it still has a long way to go before it’s ready for commercial use, the gadget will be pretty freaking awesome come shipping day. 

In theory, Nymi works like this: You wake up, get ready, and strap the gadget to your wrist. The thin band of the bracelet is light and comfortable, and — though you wouldn’t notice — is comprised of an electrical circuit. When you close the magnetized clasp, that circuit is complete. On the side of the clasp, there are LED lights that flash the battery life of the bracelet (it lasts about a week and takes two hours to charge).

The Nymi Band is now shipping to developers for $150. (Courtesy of Nymi)

Then you open up an app called Nymi Companion (though there’s currently only a Windows desktop version of it now, the company plans to make mobile Android and iOS versions as well). Click Activate My Nymi Band, and it’ll begin searching for the unique electrocardiography of your heartbeat (or ECG). After a few seconds pass, it’ll recognize you, and then you’re free to move about your day, authorizing transactions, unlocking cars, or accessing your office building by simply wearing the band. As long as the band stays clasped, you can use it for any application you approve.

“You have to prove that you are you so many times during the day by entering a password, unlocking a door, using an access card,” Nymi marketing rep Shawn Chance said. “All of those friction points, once you put this on, can seamlessly melt away. You don’t need to fiddle with a key, you don’t need to look for a badge in your pocket, you don’t need to do any of those things. And if your band falls into the wrong hands, it’s useless to that person.

In practice, however, Nymi doesn’t quite fulfill that fantasy. Currently, its only working app is a WIndows login. But there’s a pilot program to connect MasterCard and RBC Bank with the bracelet, so people can make contactless payments. Chance is also hopeful that, now that Nymi’s development kit is public, enterprising coders will begin developing cool applications for the gadget. 

Nymi contains a haptic feedback motor so that it can vibrate when transactions are approved. It also features a gyroscope and accelerometer. Though those sensors aren’t currently being put to use, Chance says those features are up for grabs for zealous developers, too.

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