No cell signal? No sweat. Send files via high-frequency sound waves with app

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Could we replace near-field communication (NFC) and QR codes with ultrasonic tech that allows users to send data via audio? A startup called Lisnr certainly thinks so — and it’s providing the tools to help.

Lisnr’s solution involves something called Smart Tones, which transmit data in the audio frequency range of 18.7 kHz to 19.2 kHz, making it inaudible for 49 out of every 50 people.

“These high frequency sound waves can transmit data using a speaker to and between any smart devices with a microphone,” CEO Rodney Williams told Digital Trends. “Using the existing audio infrastructure and hardware in an environment, our Smart Tones are played on their own or added as a layer into existing media. A device with the Lisnr SDK installed will recognize the presence of a Smart Tone when it comes into range. Once a tone is heard, the SDK demodulates the audio for information and performs the specified function on the device based on the data contained in the tone.”

Lisnr isn’t the only company to try transferring data via audio. For example, Google Nearby uses near-ultrasonic tech to transfer data between Android devices. Where Lisnr’s tech differs is in its ability to transfer 5 to 10 times the number of bits per second of its closest rival. Its commercially available software currently boasts transfer speeds of 300bps, but its beta tech can carry out transfers at a massive 1,000-3,000bps.

In terms of possible applications, Williams points out that there are many. “We currently have live implementations with well-known clients in many industries, such as sports, broadcast, live events, retail, and automotive,” he said. These clients include major brands such as Cisco, Intel, and Visa, car companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, as well as sports teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indianapolis Colts.

Some use-cases for the tech include seamless mobile payments, personalization technology like a car that recognizes who’s driving it, and more secure offline data transfer. No, you probably won’t be using it to transfer HD movies — and the fact that the receiving and issuing devices need to be in audible proximity means long-range data transfer isn’t possible — but this is pretty neat tech all the same.


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