Using sound to realise the value of IoT

By: Adam Howard

29, May, 2017


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As an ever-increasing amount of smart devices, networks and platforms come to market, the lack of interoperability between them has emerged as an obstacle to realising the true benefit of IoT.  Whilst consumers are buying more devices which add value on an individual basis, the value of IoT will likely only be unlocked when all of these ‘things’ are fully integrated together – whether that is in order to provide greater data continuity for brands or ease of use for consumers.

You can hear James Nesfield, CTO at Chirp speak on the Connected Indusrty (Day 1) and the Developing for the IoT (Day 2) at the IoT Tech Expo Europe 2017

Whilst traditional Radio Frequency (RF) based networking technologies such as Wifi, Bluetooth and NFC provide the connectivity in the majority of cases, there are situations in which the required infrastructures are either not in place or restricted; legacy machines and devices do not have the required capabilities and are therefore excluded from the ecosystem; or – particularly in the consumer realm – the friction of the setup process is a barrier to entry.

Here at Chirp, we enable increased interconnectivity between devices, networks and platforms through the universal language of sound. We do not compete with existing networking technologies, rather we complement them by harnessing sound to create the first or last 3 feet of a connection between a device and it’s destination – be that another device, a group of devices, a system or network.

Sound is everywhere around us, and billions of devices are able to make or listen for sound via their microphones and loudspeakers. Chirp’s data-over-sound technology encodes data into a series of audible or inaudible, near-ultrasonic pitches and tones to form a ‘sonic barcode’. Data is encoded on a sending device before being transmitted, over the air, to a receiving device, or group of devices where it is decoded. Just a few of the affordances of sound to benefit increased connectivity in IoT include the fact that it works offline, is broadcast capable, ubiquitous and portable – and that is why we are so passionate about its application.

In the consumer realm, as no prior handshake between devices is required before they can exchange data, Chirp can complement existing networking

technologies by simplifying the device on boarding and setup process. Chirp technology can be used to share network credentials to a group of devices in the smart home or conversely, remove the need for users to Wi-Fi passwords, instead providing them the ability to send secure access codes from their device to a network, encoding this data, into sound.

Data-over-sound technology also has several powerful affordances in industrial environments. RF wireless communications do not meet regulatory standards in many major industrial environments. Current best practices recommend prohibiting RF communications in safety-critical systems such as nuclear facilities, and the same applies to many parts of the electromagnetic spectrum in medical scenarios. This impacts the majority of popular communications technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, ZigBee and DECT.

In this realm, data-over-sound technology can be used to bridge the gap between devices and a wider network. This enables air-gapped security: Because devices are not ‘connected’ by wires or Wi-Fi, equipment can report back but still maintain a secure air gap with the network. It can also utilise existing audio infrastructure such as PA systems to transmit data. This means even devices and equipment widely dispersed around a factory or station can be communicated with as long as they are within earshot of a speaker. Additionally, because any device with a speaker and microphone can act as a sender and receiver of data, sound can facilitate frictionless two-way M2M communications.

As the adoption of IoT continues to gain pace, it naturally brings with it the risk that disparity and complexity will grow exponentially. Chirp are here to help increase interconnectivity through the universal language of sound, working with our clients to provide them a widely compatible, low-friction method for both legacy and smart devices to interconnect.

Find out why Chirp is so passionate about sound, how they harness it’s unique affordances and who is benefitting from this science and technology already at

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