Toronto-based startup Bionym has launched an SDK for its forthcoming identity-authenticating wristband, Nymi. It said today that more than 6,000 developers have registered their interest in building software that hooks into the heartwave-sensing bangle. Thus far, it’s managed to pre-sell more than 7,000 of the $79 wristbands, which are due to ship in Spring 2014.
The Nymi wristband authenticates the wearer’s identity by matching the overall shape of their heartwave (captured via an electrocardiogram sensor). It sustains authentication, so long as the wristband remains in position, reducing the need for repeated authentications during the day.
When Bionym launched pre-orders for Nymi back in September, it was just days before Apple confirmed its new flagship iPhone, the 5s, would have a fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button. Apple adopting biometrics suggests the tech is finally set to heat up in the consumer electronics space, offering a more convenient alternative to passcodes/passwords — even if neither can promise bulletproof security.
Apple’s entry may seem like bad timing for Nymi but the startup is hoping to convince people to wear its wristband to authenticate their identity across a range of devices and environments, and change how they experience them. So being shut-out of Apple’s walled garden is no great loss, it says.
“Apple has shown in the past they will open up an API if there’s a compelling case because they’re just going too much against the tide but we’re not depending on them to go that route,” says Bionym CEO and co-founder Karl Martin.
“Device unlocking is really the very simple demonstration of the capability we provide and certainly we can do that on pretty much any platform but iOS. Our thinking is much, much broader than that… Our interest is much more about how can we change your interaction either with your personal technology, in the home environment, or at events, or in recreation environments, things like that.”
What kind of apps are its developers working on building for Nymi? “The obvious ones that people are working on is simply unlocking various things, from doors to their personal devices. But the ones that are most interesting to us are the people that are thinking outside the box in terms of different environments and different appliances — that, how could they behave differently if they knew who you are?” says Martin.
“So there are the kind of silly ones that your coffee machine knows your settings vs your partner’s and is going to produce your coffee the way you want it.”
“It’s not just software,” he adds. “There’s a lot of people interested in making Arduino or other kinds of hardware modules that can talk to the Nymi. So imagine an Arduino module that wants to be one of those people that overshares and tweets whenever you’re in the room saying you came home and you’re here… It’s those kind of things that interest us, because we don’t just view ourselves as just about security.”
Bionym is also working on partnerships to expand the applications for the wristband — describing example scenarios such as visiting a themepark and getting “integrated benefits that will alter your experience”, because you’re wearing Nymi. Or using it for personalised retail experiences (which sounds like it’s competing with iBeacon).
Another example could be going into a restaurant or a bar and the Nymi passing info on your dietary restrictions or favourite drink. Other potential use-cases could be for premium hotels or airlines for frequent flyers. “Your identity matters and the world should confirm or your experience should improve because of who you are and your preferences,” adds president Andrew D’Souza.
“Those are the types of the experiences that we’re hoping to go and create. It’s not going to be on a mass scale but we hope over the course of the next year we’re going to see some really interesting use-cases in specific places that will start to get people’s imagination’s going over what the future of the world can look like.”
Martin said the startup is hopeful Nymi will launch with “about 10 killer apps”.