The Heart May be the Greatest Biometric Tool of All

August 30, 2016         By: Steven Anderson

Using biometrics as a security mechanism, especially where mobile payments are concerned, is a great idea.

Some, however, are already asking if it’s possible that some biometrics systems are better than others. That may actually be the case, as Nymi has been pushing to take advantage of one key biometric measure: the human heart.

Nymi starts off with an excellent premise: while many biometric systems have proven able to be spoofed in the past—facial recognition systems beaten with pictures, voiceprints beaten with recordings and so on—the heartbeat is not only a unique identifier, but it’s also one that requires the user to be alive in order to generate.

While a thumbprint can be lifted, or the thumb itself stolen in a particularly gory criminal act, the heartbeat is generated only when the user is alive.

To that end, Nymi offers a wearable bracelet that tracks a user’s heartbeat, serving as the second factor in a two-factor authentication system and ensuring that the actual person checking in is indeed that person.

Perhaps not the greatest use of biometrics, but certainly a worthwhile one. It’s worth noting that the system, so far, has had no security breaches, which serves as an excellent measure of its overall reliability.

It’s irksome here that biometrics is only being viewed as a backup security mechanism, a way to make the largely failed username-and-password combination actually work for the first time in years.

Biometrics is sufficiently powerful to stand on its own merits, and though there is a certain value in being cautious as security goes, the end result is still plain. Biometrics should not be viewed as supplemental security, but rather, as a fully-fledged operation.

Biometrics requires user characteristics that are on hand at all times, require no memory to operate, and are sufficiently unique to be used as an identifier.

It’s not a sideshow, but rather potentially the best thing to hit security in years. The more we can connect our heartbeats, our voice prints, our fingerprints and so on to those vital systems we want no one else getting into, the better off we’ll be in the long run.