Nymi CTO: Why Nymi Band is for business not consumers – yet

Apple Watch and high end designer brands are pushing out the competition
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Nymi's innovative wristband authenticates wearers by their heartbeat for super secure payments, but even though it was originally designed back in 2014, it faces a problem: how do you get consumers interested in authentication? After piquing everyone's interest, the Nymi Band decided to change how it approached consumers – by avoiding them altogether.

Rather than jumping into the consumer space with its unique wristband, the company's decided to test the wearable waters with the enterprise folks first.

Read next: Wearable tech that wants to kill the password

Why? Simple. Top smartwatches like Apple Watch and designer watches like Tag Heuer, Mondaine among many others, are crowding the space with high price points, and high expectations of what a wearable should be.

With 2016 set to be the year of tech companies making waves in payments, we chatted to Nymi founder and CTO Karl Martin to find out how the Nymi Band fits into the new world of wearables.

Do we want too much?

Nymi CTO: Why Nymi Band is for business not consumers – yet

Martin says if you looked at the website a few weeks ago, it would have been pretty consumer oriented, versus now where it's solely enterprise driven.

"Over the past year, we've been shifting our focus to enterprise and that's pretty much our 100% focus today."

The change is partly because consumers want too much. On one hand, it's understandable - innovation caters to the desires of the people. If a product doesn't have what we want, we won't buy it.

On the other hand, the demand can give way to unrealistic expectations. If a product can't satisfy everything on the checklist, then it's doomed.

Must read: The best wearable payment devices

Nymi Band isn't a looker, nor can it do everything. It's not a smartwatch or a fitness tracker but it's still a wearable with a very specific purpose - being a multi-factor authenticator. Martin envisions the wristband doing more but not in the timeframe consumers expect - which is immediate - because it won't be the product they expect - which is perfect and capable of more than one function.

"On the consumer side, people got really excited about the concept when it does everything. 'It's going to unlock my car, take care of payments, unlock my house,' all of those things. The reality of a start up is those are applications that get delivered over several years because the interoperability with third party companies is a lot of work."

Entering enterprise

The consumer space's competitiveness and Nymi's specified features are why enterprise makes sense to Martin.

That and because he says people absolutely hate passwords.

"If you're looking at the (enterprise) competitors, there's nothing that looks like this. No personal authenticator in the enterprise. We're competing with second factor tokens.

"Either USB tokens or RSA one time password ones. They're not password replacements, they are second factors on top of passwords and people hate them. You still have to use these things on a frequent basis.

"When you actually look at that market, it's really ripe for a leap ahead. The challenge as a startup when you're doing something that looks very different from what's out there, is there's a barrier of selling it and getting people on board."

The new Nymi Band won't be for every person in an organization though. Nymi is looking towards deploying the wearable for "privileged accounts" like system administrators or executives who have and deal with sensitive accounts.

What's next for Nymi

Nymi CTO: Why Nymi Band is for business not consumers – yet

That doesn't mean regular non-executive types will never get a hold of the Nymi Band. Martin says it's still a possibility down the line.

"So we really do see a blurred line. We're starting in enterprise but right off the bat you're putting something on people's bodies so there's an expectation it's going to do more.

"I'll give you a sneak peek to say we will actually have a fitness tracking capability on the device. People are already putting it on their body, and then it will be able to get fitness data.

We also have MasterCard as a partner and investor in the company so there will be long term contactless payments. We designed the product to set it up with your credit card or home computer, you can do that with you enterprise device."

NFC payments, password authentication and fitness tracking are all features that many wearables employ right now - but in sleeker form factors. They don't however, have Nymi's brand of heartbeat identification nor the security background of the company.

Essential read: The (near) future of payments: Selfie pay and more

Nymi is definitely thinking about the broader applications of its tech and its wrist-ware. It just doesn't want to deal with the competition right now.

So regardless of the fitness tracking, Nymi still isn't going too far into the consumer end of the pool. Rather, it's thinking about sticking the Nymi technology inside other wearables as a means to rub elbows with the big names.

"Longer term, it's really about partnerships so that it's Nymi inside their products. We are under no illusions we can compete in a space with all sorts of consumer form factors whether it's Apple or traditional fashion brands.

"There's a whole thing about people wanting 10 different choices, and not just one. To be able to play in that space, our strategy would be OEM licensing technology to be embedded into third-party wearables.

"That's actually work that's been ongoing for quite awhile. That's a very long road, but we're setting that up and in the coming years, you'll start to see Nymi inside third party devices."

How we test


Lily is a writer and editor specializing in tech, video games, marketing, education, travel writing, and creative fiction. 

She has over 10 years of experience covering the technology beat.

Lily has a passion for VR and AR technologies and was associate wearables editor at TechRadar US, before joining Wareable as US editor in 2016.

Lily will graduate in 2023 with an MFA in Creative Writing.

In her spare time, Lily can be found knee-deep in zine collaborations, novel writing, playing Dungeons & Dragons or hiking and foraging for mushrooms.

Related stories