Toronto-based wearable startup Bionym’s Nymi band uses your ECG to securely identify you to various devices and services, and as of today there’s another trick up its sleeve – acting as a secure, easy to use Bitcoin wallet. The company revealed today that one of the launch applications that will ship with the Nymi will be a Bitcoin wallet, and that said wallet will provide a more secure method of storing your account’s private key.
All Bitcoin transactions consist of a key exchange: when someone is depositing funds into your account, they use the public key (it’s public since people don’t often get that cheesed about getting free money); when they want to send or withdraw the cryptocurrency, they use the private key. Recently, some evidence has suggested that it’s actually frighteningly easy to get at that private key if it’s stored on a hard drive or shared via QR code.
What Nymi brings to the table is a way to keep the private key securely stored independent of any computer, and tied to your unique ECG biometric signature. This makes it not only secure, but also more convenient than existing Bitcoin wallet solutions, Bionym President Andrew D’Souza explained in an interview.
“People just don’t understand how [Bitcoin] works, and how they gain access to it without putting themselves at risk,” “We see Nymi as essentially being that enabling technology that brings it to market. Everyone who buys a Nymi will get a Bitcoin wallet and be able to securely transact, and understand that their wallet is encrypted, and tied to their biometrics so that even if you lose your Nymi or it’s stolen they won’t be able to access your bitcoins.”
D’Souza says that while Bitcoin has a lot of potential, there’s a risk that it will either fade away into obscurity because of its perceived complexity, or that it’ll get legislated away and receive such a negative connotation that it doesn’t ever hit the mainstream. By making Bitcoin more accessible, and more secure, Bionym hopes to help it avoid those pitfalls. Their vision is of a world where you maintain a Bitcoin savings wallet on a computer, but then use your Nymi like a walkaround checking account for daily transactions.
“With Nymi, when you walk away from your computer your Bitcoin wallet will lock automatically,” explained Bionym Chief Cryptographer Yevgeniy Vahlis. “But it won’t just lock in terms of the interface; there’s nothing there to steal. Everything that’s important about your Bitcoin account is stored physically on the Nymi, so hacking into your computer won’t allow anyone to steal or misuse your Bitcoin, even if they hack into your computer while you’re using your Nymi.”
The Bitcoin Wallet will be shipping with the first Nymi armbands when they eventually ship. Bionym is keeping mum on when exactly that will be, but the company still states an “early 2014″ ship date on its pre-order page for the first batch of units. As with any hardware startup, demonstrating utility to early customers will be key, so Bitcoin integration, if it really can democratize the concept of the cryptocurrency, could indeed be a killer app.