Halifax trials heartbeat ID technology for online banking

Electronic wristbands use customers’ heartbeats to verify their identities and could mean the end of passwords and pin codes

Nymi wristband technology
The Nymi band authenticates the wearer by identifying the unique electrical signals emitted by the user’s heart. Photograph: HO/Handout

Passwords, pin codes and memorable words could soon be a thing of the past if new heartbeat technology being trialled by the Halifax takes off.

Halifax is the first UK bank to test electronic wristbands that use customers’ heartbeats to verify their identities in an effort to make online banking safer.

The technology means that people will not need to remember multiple passwords when they log into their accounts – the Nymi band, which looks like a watch, authenticates the wearer by identifying the unique electrical signals emitted by the user’s heart, known as an electrocardiogram, when it is first placed on the wrist.

ECG data is captured when the customer wears the band on one wrist and touches the top sensor with the opposite hand. Another set of sensors detects whether the person is still wearing the band, and shuts the device down if their heartbeat is not recognised.

The wristband has been developed by Toronto-based technology firm Bionym, which has also trialled it with Royal Bank of Canada.

Halifax, which is owned by Lloyds Banking Group, believes that the technology is superior to fingerprints or iris scans as the heartbeat is a “vital signal of the body and as such, naturally provides strong protection against intrusions and falsification”.

The bank will ask some customers entering Halifax branches to try out the electronic wristband by logging into their bank accounts on a smartphone or computer. A spokeswoman said: “You could fake someone’s fingerprint, but you can’t fake someone’s heartbeat.”

The band has sensors that in the future could be used in other areas, for example for gesture recognition, such as unlocking a door.

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