Ultrasonic payment service Zoosh bridges NFC gaps

zooshThere’s been a lot of buzz around near-field communication (NFC) revolutionizing the way we pay for things by turning your mobile phone into a mobile wallet or mobile payment device. The problem is that only a few phones, such as the Google Nexus S or Nokia’s Astound, have the specialized chip built in them. A company called Naratte has found a way around the problem by using ultrasound tones and your phones existing microphone and speaker to do the same thing as NFC but less exclusive.

Naratte’s Zoosh service is sort of like the way Shopkick works. Shopkick allows retailers to beam coupons onto customers’ phones at stores through inaudible sounds that get picked up by a cell phone’s microphone. Zoosh similarly uses the microphone and speaker to send and receive inaudible sound frequencies that contain data. Just like Shopkick, no data connection required, no GPS and no NFC.

Zoosh would deliver this data over a short range like the NFC and companies would have to buy a low-cost add-on with microphone and speaker for store’s POS PCs. However, for consumers it would be as easy as creating a simple app; and Zoosh is designed to also work with smartphones like Android or iPhone devices. Besides phone to POS payments, Zoosh will enable phone-to-phone payments and the ability to beam digital coupons to a POS system. Friends, relatives, drug dealers won’t have to worry about not having cash in their wallets anymore.

So far, the Sunnyvale, California based Narrate already has a partner in Sparkbase, a company that makes white label loyalty and stored value programs (a digital wallet service).

The CEO of Sparkbase Doug Hardman, said, “we see rising demand from both merchants and consumers for a robust loyalty platform that integrates both at the point of sale and the mobile device. Quite simply, we don’t have to wait for 2012 or beyond for mobile to terminal transactions. The technology is here, in people’s phones and on merchant’s terminals right now. We only have to activate it.”