Nymi Band first look: the wearable heartbeat authenticator for enterprise

Nymi wants to give simplified password protection with its wristband
First look: Nymi Band

The Nymi Band has made waves in the last few years for its heartbeat identification ability as a way to authenticate the wearer.

It knows exactly who's wearing it and then communicates the confirmed identity to any device with Bluetooth and NFC capabilities. Basically, it means no more remembering your computer password, phone PIN, security door credentials, office building key fobs and even your car keys. Sounds good, doesn't it?

However it won't be heading to consumers anytime soon. The company has decided to focus on launching the wristband this mid-year only in the enterprise space instead of it's original plan of bringing it to consumers.

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Nymi CEO Karl Martin told us the company won't completely rule out a consumer product but it will either be much further down the line because certain consumer oriented features take years to develop, or Nymi tech will instead simply be integrated with third-party wearables.

Martin notes MasterCard has remained a partner and investor in the device and "there will be long term contactless payments" for the foreseeable future.

A beta developer band has been available for a few years with the steep price point of $150, and though we won't see them on many wrists, we still checked out the Nymi Band to find out what the fuss is all about.

Nymi Band: Design

For a device with such an important job, Nymi remains an unassuming wearable. There aren't any visible buttons or screens - or really anything that stands out, except for the electrodes on the top of the band and bottom of the "core" which slides in place like a clasp.

Speaking of the clasp, it's getting redesigned because it's not the most secure mechanism at the moment.

The band itself is made of hypo-allergenic materials and is water resistant. It's also reminiscent of Misfit's line of bands in terms of looks and quality. The band also serves as a continuity circuit for the electrodes to read your heartbeat.

The top electrode sits at one end of the band - which is where you place your finger - and the bottom sits against your wrist to complete the circuit.

In general, the Nymi truly is a functional wearable and doesn't seem like it wants to be any flashier. It does make sense that a security device wouldn't stand out but at the same time, you are wearing it and it could do with makeover.

Nymi Band: Features

The wristband promises a five day battery and two hour charge time which is pretty good and stacks up to other screen-less fitness trackers out now.

The core of the Nymi Band contains an accelerometer and gyroscope for gesture recognition, and a haptic feedback motor for various types of notifications.

There's also Bluetooth LE and NFC along with device removal detection. The latter bit means once you take the Nymi Band off, you'll have to re-authenticate your ECG with the app for it to recognize you.

It sounds like a hassle, but when it was demoed, it actually took about a minute and on other tries, under a minute. The app then shows you your heartbeat in real time as it's authenticating.

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If you pair the Nymi with an Apple smartphone that has TouchID, you can also activate the wristband through TouchID. You'll only have to do it once when you put it on and you're good to go if the band remains on your wrist.

Not all dev kits will come with stock NFC, but you can request it. The full product launch will see that each Nymi Band comes with NFC enabled by semiconductor manufacturer NXP.

Nymi is one of the first products to use the company's new chip. Essentially, the system lets users load different kinds of credentials into the NFC with the secure element tied to the NFC.

Things like physical access credentials and payments, don't have to be registered beforehand, and can be dynamically loaded later. You can stick your band up to a physical access point at your office building and it will work. Previously, these ecosystems were closed off and it all had to be provisioned.

Nymi Band: Early verdict

The market is pretty tough for wearables - it has to be fashionable, functional and durable, among many other things. It's why Nymi has decided to step away from the consumer end and jump into the enterprise sector. Feasibly, it doesn't make sense to compete with Apple Watch or Fitbit Blaze because Nymi Band's purpose is steeped more in security.

Still, it's a shame the Nymi won't be gracing more wrists with genuinely useful wearable tech. There are plenty of optical heart rate monitors - with questionable accuracy - but no ECG monitors that if done right, can precisely identify who you are.

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That's not to say we know how exact the Nymi Band is from a quick demo, but we'd like to hope that it's secure especially with all the sensitive information it provides access to.

Nymi Band is one of those cutting edge wearables we want to see evolved in terms of looks and features however, for now we'll just have to wait and be patient.

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