Nearbytes: a Data Transmission System Based on Sound

By August 23, 2013

Brazilian startup Kinetics has developed a technology, dubbed Nearbytes, which can transmit data in contactless fashion by using sound.son.

Near Field Communication enables exchange of data at close range without the need to go online. Now Kinetics, a Brazilian startup, is aiming to differentiate itself with its Nearbytes technology, which enables contactless data transmission between smartphones, whatever operating system they use, based on sound. The transmitting device encrypts the data and, using the integral microphone, sends it as a series of chirps. The receiving device then captures these sounds on its speaker and decodes the data. NearBytes therefore does not require any special hardware.

SDK available for app development

Kinetics is also banking on the collaborative approach: the startup has made available a set of programming tools – its Software Development Kit – so that developers can create all kinds of apps using data communication by proximity. In fact apps for contactless payments, loyalty cards, promotional coupons and exchange of contact details have already been developed for the app store. Interestingly, the system has already inspired some more ‘playful’ apps. During the recent World Youth Day celebrations in Rio, an app was used to simulate the transmission of a flame. So who knows, maybe Nearbytes will help to bring back the tradition of waving lighter flames at rock concerts? Nor is the SDK limited to aiding programming just using sound. When coupled with NFC technology, the apps that have been developed can also work in a number of different ways.

Inherent limitations make Nearbytes only a precursor to NFC

As it is quite easy to use and also modular and customisable by those developers who possess the necessary skills, Nearbytes claims widespread potential for itself.  For example, using a simple docking accessory, it will allow smartphones to communicate with other devices instantaneously. And with the Point of Sale (POS) standard, it could, for example, be used to create interactive self-service terminals and promotional channels at stores. However, the system has some serious limitations. In order to communicate, devices have to be within ten centimetres of each other. And this is quite a minor inconvenience when compared with the slow data transfer rate, which is around 100kbps, i.e. just 25% the speed of maximum NFC transmission rates. So while the sound transmission system has been successfully tested in noisy places, NearBytes would appear to be inherently more suitable for swapping small amounts of data than for streaming heavier formats such as high definition video.

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