Update 1 – Royal Bank to test ‘pay with your wrist’ technology

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is going to pilot test a ‘pay with your wrist’ technology called Nymi which identifies the customer’s unique heartbeat and allows credit card payments to go ahead.

The wristband, developed by Bionym, a Toronto-based developer of biometric and authentication technologies and applications for consumer electronics, looks very much like a watch. The device will be worn and tested by 250 RBC customers and employees. The pilot trial will continue until February 2015.

The aim is to eventually roll out the RBC PayBand (Nymi Band) to all its customers across Canada.

Jeremy Bornstein, head of RBC’s payments innovation operations, says his company has been considering wearable space for quite some time.

Mr. Bornstein said “We’re quickly going to move past (the pilot phase) to giving clients true choice – not only in what they pay with – but also how they’re paying.”

Nymi Band

The Nymi Band identifies your unique heartbeat (Photo: Bionym)

For the moment, the RBC PayBand only functions with MasterCard, but will eventually be compatible with all major credit and debit cards.

According to Bionym, the device will lead to faster and easier financial experiences with less risk. The Nymi Band uses the customer’s unique ECG (electrocardiogram) to confirm his or her identity. It remains activated until it is taken off.

Biometrics is a crucial enabling technology that will lead to a range of advancements in other fields. The challenge for Bionym is to find an approach that is usable, highly secure, unobtrusive and affordable. If this pilot scheme is successful, the company will have jumped the most important hurdle – driving commercial acceptance in the real world to critical mass.

Bionym CEO Karl Martin said:

“What’s out there already is the tap-and-pay, which has no authentication. So in the case of contactless payments where somebody else uses your card, the onus is on you to notice that your card is gone, and then deactivate it.”

“What we’re trying to do is build a higher level of trust, so that in the long term you can reduce fees and make contactless payment a more trusted transaction. Compared to what’s out there today, we’re certainly offering a higher level of security or trust.”

The technology builds on existing standards for contactless payments and extends on what current contactless cards already offer. This means that merchants that offer contactless payments can use their existing systems.

Bionym is inviting applicants to register if they want to become part of this payment pilot study.