Now all you need is a heartbeat to invest in bitcoin

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on February 4, 2014

From The News Desk

Two of the "hottest things" in tech have come together and made a pretty bizarre partnership: wearables and bitcoin. While the two don't necessarily seem like codependent concepts, one company believes they can, and perhaps should be. Or, at least, that bitcoin security can be heightened only through what wearables can provide.

Today Bionym, the Toronto-based company behind the wearable device Nymi, has announced that its yet-to-be-released gadget can now be used to to authenticate its own bitcoin wallet.

The Nymi isn't just any wearable, mind you. Revealed last September, it's the device that uses a user's heartbeat to authenticate and gain access to other devices. That is, the Nymi has an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor inside it, that analyzes the user's own unique heartbeat so that only those who the bracelet belongs to can unlock the things around them. Nymi puts a biological spin on the prevention of identity theft. As Bionym's CEO, Dr. Karl Martin, told me last time we chatted, Nymi is "putting identity on the body."

Today's announcement is just another example of what Bionym thinks wearable technology should be going. According to the company's President Andrew D'Souza, he sees bitcoin's success as dependent on new technological advances like the Nymi. In his estimation, this announcement "could make what is the first, most secure bitcoin wallet out there."

D'Souza says that the decision to make its own wallet came from the company's own interest bitcoin. "We believe in the currency," he said. Bionym had begun getting ideas from developers about ways to use Nymi's technology, and this seemed like an apparent application for the device. "It's the first truly secure consumer-facing bitcoin app," D'Souza explained to me.

He also sees this app as helping the digital currency become a more household name. D'Souza said that he sees this as a way to "bring bitcoin to the mainstream." How? Well, I guess it's the idea that if there's better security with bitcoin wallets -- which is a real problem -- then perhaps more people would be interested in the testing it out.

But, then again, Nymi isn't a household name in the least. For a device that has yet to be released, D'Souza told me that Bionym has received over 7,000 preorders. Now the company is about to ship out the developer units, and is just "setting the firmware and testing." Sure, that's good for a small company, but not even a dent in the ever-increasing wearable device market.

D'Souza is hopeful that this announcement, along with the developer program, will propel Nymi to the front of the wearable line. He says that there are company partnership in the works, with brands that represent airlines, automotives, hotel chains, and retailers.

So Bionym is seeing this as its chance to really make its case as the next wearable with the most secure possibility for authentication. Bitcoin is the first step.

At the same time, this could also just be a publicity stunt by a company trying to get its name known. Bitcoin is on the tip of almost every tech-savvy person's tongue these days. This is unquestionably a calculated move. Whether that helps or hurts the app is still up for interpretation.

As I talked about before, Nymi's technology is a pretty futuristic one. While its technology isn't intrusive in the way it collects its information, it sure does track something I would consider to be private. I will say that the bitcoin addition may be a boon to Nymi's concept, since bitcoin security seems to be the one thing many people are frightened of when it comes to the digital currency. Of course, it won't be one Toronto-based startup that brings bitcoin to mainstream, nor will the digital currency propel a wearable device to Glass-like territory.

But, once Glass starts checking your pulse, then let's talk.