Today’s sound technology landscape encompasses multiple methods of transmitting information between people and machines including, but not limited to — watermarking, fingerprinting, modulation/ demodulation and of course, voice recognition.
At Chirp, we pride ourselves on the work that we do with our clients and partners to ensure that we help them to harness the medium of sound only if it provides the most appropriate solution to their problem. We also pride ourselves on our understanding of when the aforementioned methods of transmitting information through sound will not meet their needs.
In this post, we look to explain why the technology that we develop is designed with the single purpose of enabling the transmission of information between humans and machines and machines to machines only where it is best applied.
Whilst a lot of players operating in the market focus on developing data-over-sound solutions for smart devices (and more specifically, smartphones), Chirp see far more potential for this powerful communications medium and hence have developed our technology to utilise sound across a much broader range of devices and applications. Indeed, our technology is already being used to power communications between devices running on low powered chips and legacy, analogue devices without traditional networking capabilities.
Whilst most modulation/ demodulation technology providers offer just an inaudible ultrasound technology, and almost solely for smartphones or tablets, we also understand that ultrasound itself is just a small subsector of modulation/ demodulation, which itself is only a subsector of the wider data-over-sound sector as a whole, and we understand that the breadth of applications in which using ‘audible’ sound to transmit information may afford greater benefits than using just ultrasound.
This data-over-sound solution uses the modulation / demodulation method to enable the encoding of data into a series of pitches and tones on a sending device to form a ‘sonic barcode’. This data is then transmitted, over the air, to a receiving device, or group of devices where it is decoded.
It is the breadth of supported platforms and audio protocols that our technology delivers that allows Chirp to move beyond simply providing the facility to transmit information between smartphones and smart devices. In fact we must confess, it is the applications of our technology to enable low powered chips and legacy devices to enter into conversation with us, smart devices and each other, that excite us most.
So where is Chirp’s data-over-sound solution being used (amongst many others)?
- Chirp is being used to monitor equipment in sensitive, safety critical nuclear environments in which traditional Radio Frequency based networking technologies including wifi, bluetooth and NFC are prohibited
- Chirp is being used in Hong Kong and China to provide a low cost payment and loyalty solution to independent coffee shops by playing simple wav files from a low cost POS ‘box’, no screen required
- Chirp is being used by Activision Blizzard in the largest toys-to-life video game played by tens of millions worldwide, and is used for the purpose of sharing data, securely and totally offline, from the game itself to a companion iOS and Android app
- Chirp is used as the ticket authentication solution of choice for one of the largest transport ticketing companies in India
- Chirp is used to perfectly synchronise real-time secure virtual reality sessions with nearby devices, regardless of network or platform, as well as through conference and telephone lines to users anywhere in the world for collaborative VR experiences
Of course, Chirp also power the transmission of information to and from smartphones but it doesn’t have to be only smartphone to smartphone.
Why do Chirp offer both audible and ultrasonic protocols?
Ultrasound is not a silver bullet.
In addition to the much wider range of devices and media that support audible protocols and the larger payloads that can be delivered using audible, we are seeing increasing demand from our clients for the very human, honest and transparent qualities that ‘hearing the data being transferred’ delivers.
Another key point of note when considering whether audible or ultrasound is most suitable is the limitations of ultrasound to be carried in media as was discovered by one of our most recent clients, creative toy company Hijinx. Hijinx came to us in search of a solution to enable interactions between the emmy-award winning Beat Bugs show running on Netflix and the official Beat Bugs toys.
Many are of the impression that overlaying ultrasound on either a terrestrial or streaming broadcast will enable the delivery of content using sound (for example, offers or promotions from ads) from the broadcast to apps running on smartphones or even low powered devices running on chips. A key consideration here is the impact that video and audio compression techniques can have on overlaid ultrasound — namely, most broadcast and streaming platforms strip this out entirely.
Hijinx approached Chirp to solve the challenge of allowing the Beat Bugs toys to sing along with the Netflix show whilst remaining completely offline. And we did just that by developing a solution that enabled the toys themselves to recognise portions of the show’s existing audio and synchronise with the characters as they sing on screen. This technology really does open the doors for brands and content producers to create immersive experiences for their viewers without concerns around the risks of overlaying ultrasound.
In summary, whilst harnessing sound to transmit information between smartphones does indeed enable a number of compelling uses, there are certainly considerations. For example, broadcasting information from a single source at an event to apps on a smartphone or a group of smartphones requires that those apps are open and in a state whereby they are ready to receive information — likely this also won’t work well using directional ultrasound; using a sonic barcode ticket vs a QR code on a ticket to access an event will likely not save the venue or the customer from the security queues.
Chirp find the most compelling uses of our technology to be those in which our partners are not innovating for innovation’s sake, rather working with us to harness the unique affordances of sound in innovative ways to solve their problems most effectively.
To learn more about Chirp and how we work with our clients to build connectivity and communications solutions, visit www.chirp.io/contact