When stored on a device, one of the potential drawbacks of cryptocurrency has been its susceptibility to permanent loss through mishaps such as damage, loss and theft. The private keys are your lifeline to your investment; if these are lost, so is your cash. There is no local branch to visit, no teller to show ID such as when you forget your banking PIN.
A solution: Bionym has recently announced the mid-2014 rollout of the Nymi, a biometric wristband that includes a Bitcoin wallet application, securing bitcoins biometrically based on your heartbeat. There will be no need to remember passwords or find private keys, the private keys being stored on the device. If any other unauthenticated individual wears the device, the device is rendered benign as if it’s empty of value. There’s nothing to hack.
As the bitcoins are stored locally, there is still the risk of loss if something happens to the device. The wallet will apparently have a way of “backing up” the coins on offline.
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The Bitcoin Wallet is only one of several features of the Nymi, which will endeavor to replace passwords and keys for a plethora of applications such as logging into secure mobile applications, opening your car, secure payments and opening your hotel room.
Although heart rate can fluctuate within the individual, and on the other hand match that of someone else, the heartbeat still serves as a distinct identifier based on its profile.
Smartmetric had also recently unveiled its own biometric bitcoin storage system, which took the form of a card that authenticates via fingerprint- until now the dominant identifier in biometrics.
The Nymi is currently promoted for $79 pre-ordered. Depending on how much people are willing to pay for it in the long run, profitability may be a challenge, as is often the case with this technology.
It’s unclear at this point if there are any plans to have the device support other digital currencies such as Litecoin or Dogecoin (Doggy Collar anyone?).