Analysts have hailed 2015 as the “Year of Wearable Tech,” which bodes well for U of T Engineering spinoff, Nymi.
The Toronto-based company, co-founded in 2011 by alumni Foteini Agrafioti (ElecE MASc 0T9, PhD 1T1) and Karl Martin (EngSci 0T1, ElecE MASc 0T3, PhD 1T0), has generated serious buzz with its Nymi Band, the world’s first wearable authentication system. Martin will be discussing the future of wearable technology, digital security and biometric authentication at BizSkule’s upcoming speaking event, The Heart of the Matter: The Future of Wearable Technology, in Palo Alto, Calif. on Feb. 25, 2015.
Worn around the wrist, Nymi Band is embedded with an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor that uses your heartbeat as a unique ID to seamlessly unlock mobile devices, remember passwords and even make retail payments—an all-in-one solution to the security measures we are inundated with on a daily basis.
After receiving $14 million in Series A funding last year, and having pre-sold more than 10,000 units, Nymi is set to make a major impact on the wearable tech sector.
U of T Engineering’s Jamie Hunter recently caught up with Martin, who shared his insights into Toronto’s flourishing wearable tech community and the near-limitless potential in the field.
The Globe and Mail referenced Toronto as “a hotbed of pioneering wearable technology”—thanks, in part, to the success of Nymi. In your opinion, what do you think it is about the city that’s producing a flurry of development in the wearable tech space?
In some ways, I would consider it a lucky alignment of factors—but luck always favours the prepared. The reality is that Toronto and the surrounding areas have a wealth of talent coming out of the University of Toronto and other universities in the region, much of it around electrical, computer and mechatronics engineering. Furthermore, there is a lack of mature companies innovating in hardware development. This has led many in these fields to take the entrepreneurial route. With some of the earlier players, like InteraXon, serving as role models, there is now a snowball effect of young talent willing to take a leap and try something truly innovative.
Where does your interest in wearable technology come from?
Wearable technology is really hot right now, but in many ways it was something we were pulled into by necessity rather than a direct interest. We had a vision of how continuous authentication could change the way that people interact with technology, and it took two years to realize that wearable technology was the way to bring that to fruition. That being said, I personally find the potential of wearable tech to be nearly limitless. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg; the potential insights from continuous, on-body sensor data are massive.
Has your identity or personal information ever been compromised?
As far as I know, I’ve never been a victim of identity theft. However, I have had my credit card compromised several times. Specifically, it’s been compromised after trips to the US, where the mag-stripe, which is insecure and very outdated, is the primary means for communicating credit card credentials. It’s amazing that the US has remained so far behind on credit card technology, and this is something that we’re pushing to advance with our payment partnerships.
What do you hope that attendees take away from the BizSkule event on Feb. 25th?
I hope that the Nymi story serves as inspiration for others that wish to take the entrepreneurial route, especially when deep R&D is involved. The path is often long, especially when you’re building more than just an app, but there is a way, and the journey is highly rewarding.
BizSkule Presents: Heart of the Matter – The Future of Wearable Technology