Wearables, smart jewelry and jewelry tech have exploded in 2014. From the Ringly to the Beacon & Lively smart bracelet and of course, the Apple Watch, smart jewelry is the hottest thing in jewelry right now. And making its debut, the Nymi band might have found, once and for all, an impenetrable password: your heartbeat.
Designed more like a Fitbit or Up band than, say, Rebecca Minkoff’s awesome notification stud bracelet, it’s clear that the Nymi band falls more in the athletic category of wearables. Minkoff, like Ringly & Beacon & Lively, is more focused on the fashionable side of tech, partnering with Casemate to create studded, gilded phone and fashion accessories that reflect the young, contemporary style of the brand. The Nymi is a thin, rubber strap with heartbeat sensors that activates once closed around the wrist. It comes in black, orange, or white.
Canadian company Bionym sees this bracelet not as a more stylish and polite way to field texts and calls, but as a new security measure that they hope will create a completely password free environment. Though it will also serve as a tether to e-mail, text and social updates, its biggest feature is its ability to read and identify the wearer’s unique heartbeat. It uses that as an authentication for any device connected to the Nymi via Bluetooth. We’re talking your phone, car, computer, home security system and more. Once the bracelet is on your wrist, you’re authenticated with your devices until you take it off. According to Nymi, “After you feel a vibration and see the LEDs illuminate, your Nymi knows you are you and your devices will too.”
The Nymi also has a gyroscope and accelerometer, so fitness applications can’t be ignored, and the website also says you can assign gestures to commands, essentially popping your trunk with the wave of a wrist. The proximity detection seems useful for unlocking doors and perhaps letting you know when you’ve left your phone at home.
The Nymi comes with many questions, not the least of which are related to privacy and security, so the website has a few FAQ’s about privacy and safety. The biggest takeaway is that everything wight eh Nymi is opt-in, and all data is stored in hardware locally. There’s no cloud – for now. And if/when there is, each wearer will need to opt in to store their personal private data in the cloud. CEO Karl Martin, in an interview with TechCrunch, explained:
“We have a cryptographic chip on the wristband. We’re not just depending on software, we have hardware-based cryptography there. It … allows that communication to be encrypted. It doesn’t just depend on just the Bluetooth standard which has some weaknesses. When it’s transmitting your identity… to your devices around you you don’t want anybody to know that it’s you unless you opt in, you don’t want to be tracked, you don’t want somebody, say, a Bluetooth scanner to know when you’re around so we encrypt that information so that it becomes opt in. Nobody can know that it’s you without your permission.”
So let’s discuss the elephant in the room – the Nymi’s concept is divisive, at best. Tech nerds are intrigued, and judging by the comments on coverage so far, many are bewildered as to why anyone would ever entrust such personal information to a tech company. Especially in light of the recent iCloud hacks, and all the hard pressing questions Apple received leading up to (and after) the release of the Apple Watch. So if a company as huge as Apple – and as trusted (for the most part) as Apple, and with a fan base as dedicated as Apple’s – is having a hard time convincing vast swaths of the population that the Apple Watch is the future, how will this start up succeed?
Moreover, the Apple Watch’s heartbeat reading and sharing capabilities are only one of its many features, not the selling point for the entire product. Exactly how many devices the Nymi would be compatible with depends on third parties developing an ecosystem to support its functionality – it seems pretty obvious that third party developers are going to be building around the Apple Watch before any other devices. The only way we can see the Nymi surviving is as an inexpensive alternative to the Apple Watch (which we’ll bet good money will perform all of the Nymi’s functions in the future.) At only $79, the Nymi already has nearly 9,000 pre-orders, so only time will tell.