MasterCard’s High Tech Wearables Play

MasterCard and Canadian wearables startup Bionym are preparing to test a heartbeat-monitoring wristband as a payments authentication device, Canada’s Business News Network reported on Monday (Nov. 3).

The Bionym Nymi Band, which is expected to ship later this year, uses an NFC chip as a credit-card replacement. However, the device is locked unless it detects the right heartbeat. “The wristband can essentially know when it’s on the rightful owner or not,” said Bionym CEO and founder Karl Martin. “You’re carrying this thing that knows who you are, so you can tie it with payment credentials to have very convenient and secure payments.”

The watch-like device, which is designed to work with existing point-of-sale terminals, can also use Bluetooth to be paired with computers, mobile phones and tablets to automatically unlock or activate the other devices without a password. However, the Nymi Band isn’t compatible with Apple products, the company said.

The wristband won’t work if it’s removed from a user’s wrist so it can’t detect the correct heartbeat. However, it also adapts to changes in heart rate, so going for a jog won’t confuse its system. As a digital identity device, the Nymi Band could also be used to link with loyalty programs so merchants can know customer preferences, or with thermostats or building security systems.

The pilot test, which will be done with Royal Bank of Canada MasterCard holders, is scheduled to begin later this year. The company is also taking pre-orders for Nymi Bands on its website, but those wristbands won’t contain the NFC capability.


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