All mobile phones have microphones and speakers. Hardly any have near-field communications chips. At least for now. And that's what a new company, Naratte, is planning on leveraging as it launches a technology that allows fast, secure, short-range, point-to-point communication over ultrasonic sound waves.
Compared with other device-to-device communication technology, its Zoosh tech is about as fast as NFC (the tap-to-communicate technology Google and other companies are pushing), but slower than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. However, like NFC, the "setup time" for communication is extremely fast--there's no waiting around for a handshake to be established between devices.
Naratte CEO Brett Paulson says, "We built an acoustic baseband in software," and he points to two big benefits to doing communication this way. First, it's cheap, since there's no additional hardware required on mobile devices. Big point-of-sale terminals, he says, can be retrofitted with microphones and speakers for about a dollar (they already have the input ports on their motherboards); smaller credit-card terminals might need a bit more hardware, but they can piggyback on the input ports that exist for barcode scanners.
The other big benefit: Paulson showed a Zoosh demo using Java on a currently available feature phone. In other words, this NFC competitor can be rolled out to the world as a download on pretty much every mobile handset there is. NFC requires new phones (or for people to put stickers on their existing phones.)
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