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

Could be used as pay-by-screech. Or to annoy kids

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Vid 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 exchange contact details, URLs, and clipboard contents at the breakneck speed of 275 bytes per second. The company has aspirations beyond trivial data transfers as it sees ultrasonics being a useful alternative to radio-based Near Field Communications technology.

Here's a video of the code in action:

It's not the first time sound has been used to carry data between devices: the Psion Series 3 had a program that did much the same thing though in the audible range and with even slower data rates. System Design, the company responsible for the new attempt, uses sound in the 17KHz to 20KHz region - typically too high a pitch for all but the youngest of ears.

We know that because it's exactly the pitch used by Compound Security for their teenager-bothering annoying sound system Mosquito, which is designed to irritate "da yoof" while remaining inaudible to the rest of us.

The Psion app was audible to humans, and little more than a novelty, but these days NFC fans are frantically telling us that short-range slow-rate wireless communication is the answer to all sorts of questions we've not yet asked, principally the one about how we pay for things with a bonk of the mobile phone.

System Design's solution won't do everything NFC can do: it's not going to read the passive tags that are supposed to replace bar codes any day now, but it could do payments. Sadly the reason it will disappear without trace isn't technical, but because the momentum behind NFC is pretty much unstoppable and NFC can do everything ultrasound can do.

So it will almost certainly remain an interesting novelty, just like its Psion-based predecessor, which is good news for teenagers and others with exceptional hearing. ®

Thanks to Reg reader Nick May for spotting the financial aspirations of System Design, which our foreign desk's poor grasp of Japanese had led us to miss.

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