Welcome to the weird world of ‘heartbeat payment’ technology

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Imagine paying for your next purchase with a wristband that only works once it identified your unique heartbreat.

This sci-fi scenario is being played out in Canada, where Royal Bank is working with Toronto-based technology developer Bionym to test a wristband called Nymi. The watch-like device is being given to 250 RBC staff and clients and the pilot trial will run through February 2015.

Nymi can identify owners through their unique heartbeat and then lets them charge purchases to their credit card. The user’s heartbeat, also called an electrocardiogram, will add a layer of security to this payment option: Without the heartbeat identifier the Nymi band shuts off, rendering it useless if someone steals the device and tries to access the account.

The band only functions with MasterCard, but the bank hopes to roll it out to the public with all major credit and debit cards.

“We’ve been keenly looking at the wearable space for quite some time,” said Jeremy Bornstein, head of the bank’s payments innovation operations.

“We’re quickly going to move past [the test period] to giving clients true choice — not only in what they pay with — but also how they’re paying.”

Bionym said its Nymi wristband is the world’s first biometrically authenticated wearable payment pilot, according to media reports. The company claims the technology could result in faster, speedier financial payments with less risk.

Bionym raised $14 million in funding from range of investors, including Ignition Partners, MasterCard, Relay Ventures, Export Development Canada and Salesforce.com.

Royal Bank is confident electronic payment options will be top-of-mind for Canadians in the coming years. They partnered with wireless carrier Bell Mobility in January to test smartphone tap payments.

Canada might be a ripe country to test out e-payment innovation: Canadians use cash for only 10 percent of their payments, and that figure is falling fast.

Photo via Bionym product page 

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