Your heartbeat is about to become the key to your Bitcoin wallet—if you have one.
Canadian biometrics startup Bionym announced that one of the first apps for its Nymi wristband—which uses the user's ECG wave to authenticate identity—will be a Bitcoin wallet. This move advances Bionym's ultimate goal of replacing hackable traditional passwords with biometric security.
The Nymi uses Bluetooth wireless signals to send your heartbeat signature to any computing system that demands security from your tablet to your car. In this case, any outgoing transactions from your Bitcoin wallet will first have to be authorized by your unique ECG pattern, and then physically confirmed by a tap on the physical device.
Each Bitcoin account has two keys that it needs to function: one public, and one private. The public key allows your wallet to receive payments from others. Your private key is what allows you to spend bitcoins, and that's why security for that key is so important. Once your wallet is hacked, your Bitcoin money is gone for good. Of course if you lose the device you've lose your wallet; you'll want to backup your Nymi offline.
The ideal endgame for Bionym will involve a large market using their Nymi wristbands for everything from smaller, everyday purchases like lunch to getting through airport security and checked into hotels without hassles. The slim, plastic wristband has the potential to provide you with a password-free lifestyle like the one depicted here.
How reliable are Bionym's biometrics? Completely, according to the company. Each Nymi has an electrocardiogram sensor embedded within it. The sensor recognizes your heart rhythm—or, actually, the pattern your ECG makes, which is as unique as a fingerprint. This holds true whether your heart rate is resting, fast from exercising, pounding from anger, stress, or nervousness, or in any other state.
Whether the average consumer will be comfortable using this kind of device remains to be seen. But with facial recognition software an imminent part of even smartphone use and other signs of increased comfort with biometrics on the horizon, Bionym may just be able to help the average consumer feel comfortable with Nymi and save the product from relegation to the niche market.