The End Of Passwords? This Bracelet Unlocks Computers And Doors With Your Heartbeat

Bionym’s Nymi offers a glimpse of the future of wearable biometric authentication.

This much we can all agree on: Passwords suck.


With that in mind, companies are hard at work developing other forms of user-friendly authentication. Fingerprinting is already being used to unlock iPhones and the PayPal app on Samsung phones, Ford just filed a patent to use fingerprints to verify drivers, and Intel made a venture capital investment in a company that would bring iris authentication to tablets and PCs. Now it appears that heartbeats may be the new frontier for biometric authentication.

About a year ago, Bionym created the Nymi bracelet, powered by the fact that each human being has a unique cardiac rhythm. The Nymi senses a user’s individual heartwave pattern, translating it into a form of identification. So far, it has been used to help users sign in to computers, but as of today, the Nymi will be able to unlock physical doors. At a launch event at the ASIS security conference in Atlanta, Bionym announced that it is partnering with Brivo Labs, a firm creating technology that authenticates users who need clearance to enter a given space, such as a hotel room, a government building, or even a coffee shop bathroom.

“Your heartbeat is consistent, which makes it different from an iris or fingerprint which needs to be scanned,” says Lee Odess, general manager at Brivo Labs. “This makes it a frictionless form of identification, since you don’t need to stop to be verified.”

The Nymi bracelet pushes out a Bluetooth signal identifying the wearer and when it is read by devices embedded with Brivo Labs software, doors and gates will automatically open. Brivo Labs’ technology is already integrated into office spaces, replacing check-in tasks typically done by receptionists or security guards. Odess says the Nymi could potentially do other things too, like switch on lights when you enter a room, control your car, or turn on your computer. To prevent fraud, the Nymi only works with one user and the system shuts down if the wrong person wears it.

But the Nymi is only a small glimpse into the future of wearable identification. “We are now beginning to see technology that allows people to present themselves to spaces and in response, spaces know what to do with this knowledge,” says Odess. This means that, while opening doors and unlocking passwords are a starting point, the next step would be to offer the consumer personalized information, such as the specific seat they are assigned to at a baseball game or that a concession stand several feet away that might trigger a peanut allergy.

“It’s not just about a signing in,” says Odess. “It’s about bringing attributes about yourself so that you can have a curated experience.”


In the digital realm, companies provide targeted advertising to specific consumers; it is possible that in the near future, consumers will have similar experiences in the physical world, with companies providing tailored services and products based on consumer information connected to their biometrics.

About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.