Canadian Consulting Engineer

Heartfelt Security

Graduate students at the University of Toronto have invented a new alternative to the security swipe card. Foteini Agrafioti and Karl Martin have invented the Nymi wristband as the world's first wearable security device that uses a person's...

January 14, 2014   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Graduate students at the University of Toronto have invented a new alternative to the security swipe card. Foteini Agrafioti and Karl Martin have invented the Nymi wristband as the world’s first wearable security device that uses a person’s unique cardiac rhythm to authenticate their identity.

Everyone has a unique cardiac rhythm thanks to factors such as the size of the heart muscle and the organ’s location in the thorax. Even when stress or exercise affects the heart’s peaks and rhythms, the Nymi technology is still able to read and identify its unique patterns.

The wristband technology detects the beat, and connects via Bluetooth to the Nymi software app, enabling the user to unlock an electronic device such as a smart phone or computer. Apple have included a fingerprint sensor in the latest iPhone. However Agrafioti and Martin believe the heartbeat is superior to other biometric security solutions and is harder to imitate.

The technology evolved from work Agrafioti was doing in biometrics as a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering at U of T, while Martin was researching the privacy of biometric data. They co-founded Bionym in 2011 and became part of the U of T’s Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship which helped to nurture the business. They now have an office downtown and have sold about 7,000 wristbands.

Source: “Security in a Heartbeat,” by Sharon Aschaiek, University of Toronto Magazine, Winter 2014.


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