Chirp is often asked why data transmission via sound a better connectivity solution than technology X, Y or Z.
The short answer is that, just as with the alternatives, the affordances of data transmission via audio often align well with a specific product’s requirements. It is the pairing of product requirements and the features of data transmission through audio which represent an optimum solution when combined. Just as with each of the alternatives, data-over-sound is sometimes not the best solution to a particular connectivity problem — though often it is.
Data-over-sound sits amongst a wide array of other data transport technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, QR codes and GSM/LTE. Adding to this established collection of connectivity options, the growth of IoT is driving a new generation of WLAN technologies such as Zigbee, LoRa and NB-IoT.
Each of these channels are, at their most simple, ways of getting bytes from A to B. But they also have a unique set of capabilities and features — range, power requirements, hardware ubiquity, data rate and payload size to name a few. For a designer assessing this connectivity landscape for his or her product, this combination of features and benefits must be compared and assessed individually — not an easy task with so many options and combinations. The task gets harder still when multiple technologies are present and working together in concert.
That said, it is possible to extract a few key affordances where audio data transfer is often preferable. These scenarios often occur when product demands include a combination of :
- Requiring to support a very wide range of mobile handsets, new and old
- Requiring to share data to multiple devices quickly and simply
- Requiring to ensure that receiving devices are proximal
- Requiring completely offline functionality
- Requiring a simple, frictionless user experience
- Requiring no prior setup, configuration or login
- Requiring a connectivity standard to be very cross-platform, and device agnostic
Chirp is at the forefront of audible and inaudible ultrasonic data transmission. Our mission is to promote this technology’s use and bring its benefits to as wide an application space as possible where we are able to add value. And although we have replaced other technologies in some products and services, we do not position data transmission via audio as a direct replacement for other connectivity solutions in most scenarios. Rather we look forward to a future when devices interact seamlessly from an end user perspective — where the technology doesn’t matter.
For example, a users’s mobile device receives an image url encoded as an ultrasonic data transmission which allows it to download over GSM/LTE and display. An IoT sensor device having no user interface receives Wi-Fi credentials from a nearby laptop’s loudspeaker. Or devices broadcasting their Bluetooth MAC address within the same room are connected automatically, without being confused with those Bluetooth peripherals which may be interfering from outside of the room.
At scale this represents a point where total, frictionless connectivity is achieved by multiple solutions working collaboratively together — each bringing their own unique set of capabilities and benefits.
We look forward to the challenge and incredible opportunity to do our bit for the future of effortless device to device communications.