MWC 2015: Nymi Called The Future of Payment

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Mobile ID World has been covering MWC in Barcelona all week. Be sure to check out our impressions from day one and day two.

Today during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Jeremy Bornstein, head of payments innovation at Royal Bank of Canada, took the stage during a panel titled “Navigating The Mobile Contactless Payments Landscape” and proclaimed that biometric wearables are the future of mCommerce.

“This one pictured is Nymi,” said Bornstein, showing a slide of the Nymi wristband, “a Toronto based company that’s created a biometric device that uses your heart to validate the individual. This is interesting for us because we’ve always talked about card present transactions so we know if the card is there when the transaction’s happening. This is the first device that we believe that actually guarantees cardholder presence.”

Mobile ID World readers will be familiar with the Nymi biometric wristband. The wearable device authenticates a user based on her unique EKG reading and keeps her authenticated for the entire time it’s worn and has an immense number of applications in the relation to smart homes, connected cars, Internet of Things and mCommerce. In November at Money 20/20 in Las Vegas, Nymi announced that it is piloting a contactless payment feature with financial partners that include RBC.

“You physically have to be present, living and breathing for this to work and for this to pay,” said Bornstein. “We think this is the evolution of payment. It’s where the world is moving and we’re very excited to be supporting it.”

Bornstein, in describing RBC’s enthusiasm for Nymi as a payment device, underlined the great benefits that biometric technology brings to mobile payments. A contactless card, when lost or stolen, can be used by someone other than the cardholder. Biometric authentication addresses this problem by locking the account with a biological identity factor. A compromised iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6 for instance, can’t be used by unauthorized persons to make a payment without the painstaking process of spoofing the fingerprint sensor.

When Bornstein calls the Nymi the first device to actually guarantee cardholder presence it’s a major endorsement for the wearable, but it also stands as an important milestone in the biometric mobile payment paradigm.

As of now, the dominant biometric security modality for payments is fingerprint recognition, and that is largely because companies like Apple and Samsung have managed to gain the support of powerful financial institutions and relying parties when it comes to the efficacy of their respective sensors. With Nymi being lauded as the future of mobile payments by a major Canadian bank, and given the persistent convenience and security offered by the wearable, end users will be able to confidently choose their heartbeats instead of PINs when they want to shop.