The heart rate as an authentication system

Currently, the fingerprint is the most popular form of authentication. A person’s fingerprints do not change over time and in the analysis of billions of sets of fingerprints, there has never been found an exact match between two individuals. From that perspective, companies such as Apple have embraced fingerprint authentication for digital devices (Apple Touch ID) for security purposes.

However, in 2013, the Canadian Firm Bionym created the Nymi wearable wristband, which uses an embedded electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor to recognize the unique cardiac rhythm of users. This ECG sensor is able to match the user’s ECG against a stored profile in order to authenticate the user’s identity.

The heart rate as an authentication system

The company partnered with MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Canada, is launching a pilot of a biometric payment system. The trial will use a Nymi wristband linked to a MasterCard credit card for payments. An NFC chip inside the wristband will make it possible to communicate wirelessly with payment terminals, while the ECG sensor will authenticate users.

According to Bionym, there are two primary advantages of heartbeat authentication over fingerprint authentication.

A user’s ECG cannot be lifted or captured without a person’s consent. Contrast that to fingerprints, which can be replicated and forged.

On the other hand, Nymi only requires a user to confirm their identity once a day rather than swiping a finger for each and every transaction.

The ECG sensor is able to collect a signal continuously until it finds a match, which solves the problem of having to replace the finger on a device if it does not read it correctly.


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