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back to article Crafty app lets phones send data by ultrasound with speakers, mics

A Singapore firm is punting ultrasonic sound as an alternative to NFC for short-range wireless communications, pointing out that it works with existing hardware and provides a demo app to prove it. The software, which is on Google Play and iTunes (search for SSCconnect) in both free and ad-supported versions, allows devices to …

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Silver badge

Hmmm...

Nice idea, but 17KHz to 20KHz sounds a bit low to me.

I remember being able to hear above 18KHz when I was in my late teens, early twenties. No idea what it goes to now, but I suspect a fairly large proportion of them there youngsters would find this rather annoying.

Then again, bloody teenagers! Grrrrr!

I do feel sorry for the cats and dogs.

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Boffin

Re: Hmmm...

Well it's too low for ultrasound anyway, which by definition is above 20KHz

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Re: Hmmm...

A thought came to mind last night (as they do)...

Surely a faster (and less annoying) way to transfer small chunks of data over a short distance already exists...

QR codes!

Most phones can already read them via the camera, so you just need a generator app on the "source" phone.

Obviously this is one way, no hand shaking or anything like that, but for most uses instances this would be able to send far more data, far more reliably and wouldn't annoy the pets (including children).

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Bronze badge

Surely it can't do payments if you're in a noisy bar?

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Sure it can.

With the same accuracy as shouting your order to the barman.

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If it's done correctly, it'll work under most conditions. To bad there's no information on how exactly they have implemented it.

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Anonymous Coward

They've recreated the modem!

If my calculations are right... it's 2200 baud. Considering how the 80s are back in style again this makes sense. All the more if they dropped the inaudible part and made it sound like this.

:P

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Silver badge

Re: They've recreated the modem!

It's probably not 2200 baud. The bandwidth is 3 kHz, so they most likely use something just below 3 kbaud. I'm not sure how many symbols they send.

BTW, bauds are not bits per second. Bauds are steps or symbols per second. ADSL has for example about 4313 baud, modulating 256 or more carriers at that rate with symbols typically having more than 2 values.

And yes, it is a modem, just like the one inside the baseband of your mobile phone, or your DSL or cable modem. The technology has, however, gone far since the olden days of 2400bits/s modems. (I think those had 1200 baud and 2 bits per symbol)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They've recreated the modem!

Oh yes, baud != bps. When I looked it up prior to posting, they defined baud as signal changes per second. Didn't mean to offend anyone - honest!

I was hoping a little leeway might be granted for comedic license... Baud is, IMHO, just a much funnier way to describe a 275 bytes per second connection.

Cheers : )

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Anonymous Coward

Nice try, but consider

back in the day you had a choice of just how many data- and stop bits you could use. Usually "8N1" later on, or 8 bits of data, no parity, one stop bit. Add one start bit, and you need 2750 bps to send 275 Bps.

Maybe they're using 8b/10b encoding instead, and you get a similar calculation, though they'd still have to send start/stop markers in their (longer) bursts. Maybe the baudrate is even a bit higher and they're using the extra for some forward error correcting, which wouldn't be a bad idea given that free-space audio is rather noisy and all.

But maybe not, the app didn't look that sophisticated and it's entirely possible the devs didn't know all that much about line coding and the requirements that brings. Wouldn't be the first time, qv. the popularity of XML and some of the atrocities committed in its name. Come to think of it, IrDA didn't do any FEC, did it?

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Re: Nice try, but consider

Start/stop bits are not needed for 8b/10b encoding. There are more than 256 usuable k-codes, so some are used for IDLE and other SYNC purposes. (Pedants: yes, things get more complicated with multi-lane versions)

That said, I do wish they had made this RFC1926 compliant.

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Silver badge

Re: They've recreated the modem!

More like, the acoustic coupler.

What's wrong with a remote-control-style infra-red light? Use an LED and it must be lower-power than sound.

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Re: They've recreated the modem!

...and you've just described IrDA (http://www.irda.org/ -- I'm surprised to see that they're still around, too)

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Using ultrasound for taking money?

I hope it's better than the original TV remote controls, more accurately the receivers, which would change channels in response to a bunch of keys or a pocket of change.

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Silver badge

Or even the inaudible whistling produced by smoking a cigar!

(Puff puff, damn, is there *anything* good on tonight? Puff puff puff...)

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Anonymous Coward

"the momentum behind NFC is pretty much unstoppable"

Is it? Or is it merely what the NFC cabal pay you to write?

I for me notice a certain... unavailability of the capability in random handsets and a deafening silence whenever questions that sound anything other than "can I have some, please, good sir?" underpinned by the rustling of large wads of cash are being asked.

The jury is still out on whether it's a good idea for the customer NFC is ment to turn into neat little productized consumer packages. But so far the proponents' strategy for providing something the market might want has painfully obviously centered on repeating ad nauseam that yes, they're unstoppable, until someone gullible enough to buy into it turns up. Which turns out to be mostly bankers. Hmmm.

Personally I like gimmicks like this supposedly slow NFC contender (and how much data can NFC push through the air?) for their creative use of existing handset features, but I fail to see how they're anything but gimmicks if you try and productise it without giving it to the tinkerers to play with. NFC has much the same problem, plus its emphasis on staying not merely proprietary but also introduce seeeekrit elements to "own the customer" with, which is hysterical because it is more likely to drive off the developers you need so badly for widespread uptake than that it is likely to attract developers.

But who knows, maybe the NFC-enabled world is just around the corner and right on its heels Mister Ray will come and go "Not so funny now, is it, funny man?" on yours truly. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

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Silver badge

Re: "the momentum behind NFC is pretty much unstoppable"

My phone doesn't do NFC but my debit card does — indeed it's the sort of thing that's quite easy to add to a debit card compared to speakers and microphones. I've also been in several places around London that can receive NFC card payments, mostly sandwich chains and pubs where the £15 limit before you have to use chip and pin is often not a problem.

So based on my anecdotal experience, there's some momentum behind NFC. It's going into cards and becoming available in retailers.

However I've yet to experience anybody using it on a phone or any situation where I wished my phone could use it.

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Anonymous Coward

Prior art, there's an app which uses sound too:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18923759

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Indeed - and Chirp mentioned at launch that they could in theory adjust their system to use the inaudible range.

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Anonymous Coward

You've just invented the acoustic coupler.

Hey, System Design, I've got last century on line 1!

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Anonymous Coward

From memory, NFC has three bitrates it can use, depending on the type. NFC-A and NFC-B support 106kbit/sec, and NFC-F supports 212kbit/sec and 424kbit/sec.

As far as 17KHz to 20KHz goes, I've found that I can still hear some frequencies in that range, despite the fact that my 40th is dangerously close now (and hence why AC).

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Meh

I tried it

and it works. All I seem to be able to do though is send a name and phone number. I think I'll stick to Bluetooth for interminably long transfer times.

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Anonymous Coward

Pointless! Too litle Too late.

If I want to send data, I can bluetooth it faster or NFC it. Want to pay I can NFC with the infrastructure growing rapidly.

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Thumb Up

More of this!

There was that funky signals-via light-bulb modulation a while back too.

And some Zombie TV program using embedded near-ultrasonic signals in the TV audio to sync up PC/mobile apps for an integrated while-watching experience.

Well done all those creative types!

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Can they make it sound like a ZX Spectrum loading a game?

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