Internet of Things (IoT) startup, Trillbit, believes that some data should be encoded onto an inaudible, nearly-ultrasound layer placed on top or bottom of audible sounds – a process that could rapidly scale IoT adoption.
By doing this type of overlay, the company say any microphone and speaker can be turned into a data-transfer device that could then be used for tasks such as payment transfers, user authentication and smart city applications like digital locks.
According to the company, one of the key applications is targeting consumers that happen to be passing through environments with the use of Bluetooth beaconing. However, the lack of network dependency is where it becomes challenging for smart city IoT communications. Transmissions can be highly secure in part because it’s contactless, the company promises. Plus it claims that the system will be zero-cost to deploy with existing city audio infrastructure such as public address systems already built.
Trillbit plans to develop a system that weaves ultrasonic pulses, which it calls “Trill Tones,” into common sounds, such as music and public announcements. Ultrasonic is the type of sound that the human ear doesn’t register, but equipment can pick up. In this case, smartphones or any microphone could then be used to receive the generated audio pulses and decode the data. In turn, a smartphone speaker within proximity could send a tone to any receiving microphone such as one embedded in a door lock. That said, any specific action could be triggered, including making a purchase or communicating with other IoT smart devices.
One of the key applications, according to the company, and one that it is primarily pitching, is related to consumers passing through an environment and targeting them via Bluetooth beaconing. Trillbit says its proximity intelligence technology would be better than existing beaconing because equipment deployment is already done. It’s cross-platform, too, because it can be used not only by multiple smartphone operating systems, but also legacy TVs and radios.
Interestingly, Trillbit communicates even when smartphones are in Airplane Mode and data is turned off, so conceivably it has uses in the transportation vertical.
The company also points out that its system fixes congestion issues that might occur in a large crowd-gatherings, such as at a stadium. Traditional networks, such as wireless, can overload when important information needs communicating — such as during a public safety incident, it says. “Mobile towers and Wi-Fi networks fail as audience number increases.”
And “microphones need very little power. The associated software stacks to run the audio beacons need some power, but it is 300 percent less battery-intensive than Bluetooth,” the company claims of its retail eco-system.
But it’s really the sub-audible nature of the Trill Tones idea, and the fact that IoT doesn’t actually have a standardized communications protocol yet — unlike the now aging traditional telecommunications, which needed one, and eventually universally adopted Touch-Tone — that makes any network-less, Internet of Sound idea compelling.