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MS Researchers Develop Acoustic Data Transfer System For Phones

timothy posted about a year ago | from the just-do-it-quietly-ok dept.

Microsoft 180

angry tapir writes "Smartphones that support NFC have been making their way onto the market, but many handsets still don't support the wireless technology. As an alternative, Microsoft researchers have prototyped a system that instead uses a phone's microphone and speaker to transmit and receive data. The P2P data transfer system uses a novel technique of 'self-jamming' to stop nefarious third parties from monitoring transfers, and the researchers believe it's more secure than standard NFC communications. No word on whether it sounds like the squeal of a 56k modem."

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Ah, the circle of technology (5, Insightful)

SDrag0n (532175) | about a year ago | (#44574123)

It's amazing what comes back as "new developments"

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (2)

jaseuk (217780) | about a year ago | (#44574189)

I've actually been thinking for a while that this could be really good for challenge / response systems. Hold the phone up to the laptop, let it talk. A reliable character a second is probably less painful than dealing with a human.

Jason.

Return of the acoustic modem (3, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#44574319)

Wow, return of the acoustic modem. That really is a trip back in time. Was cutting-edge technology, back in the era of blinking-light consoles, when telephones were hardwired into the wall.

Ah, nostalgia for the tech of yore.

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (2)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year ago | (#44574503)

bload "cas:game", r

When loading 32kb of data took several minutes... good old times! :)

[now grandpa, come tell us how it was with the punch cards (but then the only sound involved was that of frustration)]

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | about a year ago | (#44574677)

Grandpa here.
      My recollection is that paper tapes and punchcard readers where a lot faster than cassette tapes for loading in programs. The reason cassettes were nice is that that the cost of the reader hardware was cheap--you probably already had a casstte player. and the results were compact. In my experience the paper tapes were the most durable. the tapes tended to go bad on you or not work between different machines with different settings. If you dropped your punch card deck it could get scrambled. the paper tapes were compact and reliable.

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year ago | (#44575265)

Thank you for the info. I found some videos of modern paper tape reader/writers, and they're actually quite cool! But I'm glad we now have Gbps instead of just bps!

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#44574845)

we had to punch our cards by hand using a unbent paper clip, and send them to the computer centre by mail

(when I was in high school, programming in FORTRAN )

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (1)

farrellj (563) | about a year ago | (#44574693)

Wow, I can now dust off my high-speed acoustic coupler! It would plug into the phone line out on a modem, and give you a decent percentage of the 14.4 Kbaud, say anywhere from 40-80%, depending on the phone, etc. I bought it because it meant that I could do support on Unix systems even if the only net connection I had available was a pay phone!

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#44575319)

Whole new meaning to pay-as-you-go!

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year ago | (#44575359)

Wow, I never realized any acoustics operated faster than 1200 bps.

Re:Return of the acoustic modem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575317)

Was cutting-edge technology, back in the era of blinking-light consoles

What blinking lights? The only thing that blinked then was the hard drive indicator. Now I have a DSL modem with blinking lights, and a router with even more blinking lights. Back in the 56k days the modem was inside the computer.

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574631)

Hold the phone up to the laptop, let it talk.

It would be more efficient if the phone was somehow acoustically coupled to the laptop. Perhaps some sort of attachment with a phone shaped rubber mount, that you place your phone into? Yeah, that could work!

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (2)

no1nose (993082) | about a year ago | (#44574809)

I think we could just use Bluetooth to couple the phone with the laptop and send digitized acoustics that way. It seems like Bluetooth is ubiquitous on both phones and laptops. A simple pairing and no additional rubber hardware is needed.

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about a year ago | (#44575005)

I came within a hair of spraying Coke on my monitor when I read that.

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (2)

tqk (413719) | about a year ago | (#44574269)

It's amazing what comes back as "new developments"

Yeah, and from Multiple Sclerosis researchers yet.

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (0)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44574375)

+ 1 mod up.

Security issue may be flawed (5, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | about a year ago | (#44574401)

First this is a wonderful idea so I don't want to put it down as a useful contribution to the low bandwidth limited distance problem for comunications. Where the authors seem to go south here is the huge time they devote in the article to touting that NFC has no physical security and their system does via "jamSecure". Unless I'm missing something there's no reason, other than changing the standard, that radio based NFC could not also implement JamSecure and even do it better. The idea of JamSecure is that both ends of the communitcation channel transmit at the same time, anyone listening in hears the sum. If one of the emitters is sending simply random noise then the sum is randomized. Yet because the receiver knows what they are emitting they can subtract it out. Don't see why NFC cant do that. Also I don't see why having two (or more) microphones in different locations on an eaves dropper doesn't ruin the addition the encryption is relying on. At least with NFC you can have the transmitters be spatially diverse too, with sound that's harder.

But for very close by communications using existing tech, why not use the screen and the camera? Each phone looks at the others screen and reads it. bandwith becomes the screen refreshrate time the number of resolvable pixels. Presumably at a meter or so that should be close to or better than sound in band width.

Re:Security issue may be flawed (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44574505)

What I find curious about the emphasis on 'physical security'(while the mechanism used is clever) is that it seems to ignore the fact that "How can I safely communicate over an insecure channel?" is a relatively solved problem. Unless this scheme is unbearably slow, you just encrypt what goes over the wire (with the requirement for physical proximity hopefully preventing spoofing by a malicious node, not that NFC does anything different).

As for screen/camera, I imagine that it's because not all phones have a camera on the same side as the screen. Virtually all phones have both items; but unless their locations differ enough between models and manufacturers that interfacing could get tricky.

Re:Security issue may be flawed (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about a year ago | (#44574629)

What I find curious about the emphasis on 'physical security'(while the mechanism used is clever) is that it seems to ignore the fact that "How can I safely communicate over an insecure channel?" is a relatively solved problem. Unless this scheme is unbearably slow, you just encrypt what goes over the wire (with the requirement for physical proximity hopefully preventing spoofing by a malicious node, not that NFC does anything different).

isn't the problem here, setting up the communication channel? for slow speed communication, the end goal may be just sending some short message like a credit card number. using something like a public key to exchange keys, might be very cumbersome, since those would grossly exceed the message length itself and thus require a much longer stable communication channel duration. That might not work with low bandwidth systems.

As for screen/camera, I imagine that it's because not all phones have a camera on the same side as the screen. Virtually all phones have both items; but unless their locations differ enough between models and manufacturers that interfacing could get tricky.

Why? how is that different than microphone placement or NFC antenna orientation.

Re:Security issue may be flawed (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44574747)

"how is that different than microphone placement or NFC antenna orientation."

Microphones and speakers are substantially closer to being omnidirectional than screens and cameras are. Many phones will deliberately cancel some of what they pick up, to get clearer voice input; but if set to speakerphone, your totally-unexceptional mic is impressively sensitive. A camera that isn't pointed right at the target screen, though, isn't going to be able to determine much more than approximate color and brightness.

As for NFC antennas, their placement does vary; but only one element(the antenna) has to be in the correct place, so any NFC phone has at least one correct solution, while in a screen+camera arrangement, two elements have to be in the right place, so phones without a camera on their screen side simply have no correct orientation.

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#44574501)

Did they seriously just call a modem 'new' technology?

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574541)

And yet, Samsung is still a cheap, plasticy, crappy phone!

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#44574585)

This just in: microsoft and/or apple patents "acoustical transmission", claims it is entirely different than modems - because it's.....wireless/uses a cellphone!

amazing. /s

Re:Ah, the circle of technology (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574817)

The paper was accepted after peer review at ACM/Sigcomm, presumably the most selective computer networking conference. It would not have been accepted if this was just about reinventing acoustic coupling. The novel part there is the attention to physical security, the fact that the receiver deliberately jams the transmission to make it harder for third parties to eavesdrop. That's actually quite clever.

So they reinvented chirp.io (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574135)

So they reinvented chirp.io ?

Re:So they reinvented chirp.io (2)

future assassin (639396) | about a year ago | (#44574411)

Who reinvented the modem...

Re:So they reinvented chirp.io (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44574753)

The conundrum here is that they have to find a new phrase for the patent application that doesn't involve "on a computer".

Re:So they reinvented chirp.io (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574643)

They invented it for Android?

And they call it (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44574141)

"modem"

Re:And they call it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574175)

And they call it
 
"R2-D2"

Re:And they call it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574237)

I wonder if they have ever considered 'teletype'?

Re:And they call it (4, Interesting)

krlynch (158571) | about a year ago | (#44574263)

I've always found it interesting that "modem" and "modern" are so easy to confuse in most fonts....

Re:And they call it (5, Funny)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#44574377)

It's a keming problem.

Re:And they call it (0)

Nadaka (224565) | about a year ago | (#44574435)

If i still had mod points, I would mod you funny.

Re:And they call it (2)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about a year ago | (#44574533)

Well, sure, but don't the font developers ever check this stuff out, by, for example, looking at real words on real displays? Just imagine how confusing this could be to a copying machine.

Re:And they call it (1)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#44574783)

Well, sure, but don't the font developers ever check this stuff out,
by, for example, looking at real words on real displays?
Just imagine how confusing this could be to a copying machine.

That's a wooshing problem.

Re:And they call it (4, Funny)

orgelspieler (865795) | about a year ago | (#44575247)

I think you mean: That's a wooshing problern.

Re:And they call it (1, Funny)

marcello_dl (667940) | about a year ago | (#44574891)

If i still had mod points, I'd mod you fumy.

Re:And they call it (2)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year ago | (#44574931)

Can we shoot the shitty font designers .. please? :-)

Almost as bad as the retards who make ONE and lowercase L look the same, or ZERO and uppercase O.

Re:And they call it (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#44575201)

"modem"

But without the need for an Acoustic coupler. [wikipedia.org] NFC as an app and the geek cracks wise?

WELCOME TO THE 1970s !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574149)

Here we go again !! Whitesnake !!

wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574177)

acoustic coupler?

next M$ discovers moving pictures

Re:wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575187)

Yeah, it's a bunch of surface tablets with pictures with small differences flying to the wall one by one with the viewer standing perpedicular to the image surface of the mentioned surface tables, thus creating an illution of moving pictures.

But... (1)

Gibgezr (2025238) | about a year ago | (#44574191)

...did they patent it yet?

Re:But... (2)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a year ago | (#44574241)

...did they patent it yet?

Of course - It's on a cell phone!

Hey Ballmer, the 80's just called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574195)

They want their acoustic coupling back...

Acoustic couplers' nostalgia... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574201)

GREETINGS PROFESSOR FALKEN.

Re:Acoustic couplers' nostalgia... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575055)

When I hear acoustic couplers I pound on the wall so they know to keep it down.

Reinvented!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574223)

The acoustic coupler...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_coupler

dumbest idea EVER (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574243)

ahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah laMer$

Yup ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574245)

Because when I think of secure, reliable communications I can trust, it's Microsoft I think of first.

Re:Yup ... (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#44574525)

Microsoft Research has some of the most intelligent minds in the world. You can trust what someone at MS Research says most of the time.

The rest of the company takes that and puts marketing on it, and then you can't trust a single letter in the company name to be accurate, let alone what they say.

Already done (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574253)

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9217790/Sound_based_system_promises_chipless_NFC_now

Already exists (4, Funny)

3vi1 (544505) | about a year ago | (#44574255)

You can already transfer music between phones like this, but it's quite lossy depending on the quality of your speaker.

Re:Already exists (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44575153)

As a kid, I remember setting up my tape recorder at one end of our coffee table hi-fi so I could record Casey Kasem's Top 100 countdown on New Year's Eve. I'd have a couple friends over and we'd play board games all night - but always keeping an eye on the tape recorder so we'd be able to switch tapes at the right point so as not to miss any songs.

Prior art (2)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44574259)

"Mr. Watson, come here. I need you."

Re:Prior art (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44574457)

"Mr. Watson, come here. I need you."

HTTP/1.1 203 Non-Authoritative Information

What is: What SIRI said on our first date.

Re:Prior art (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#44574823)

"Mr. Watson, come here. I need you."

You forgot the rest...

"Mr. Watson, come here. I need you. Instructions unclear, penis stuck in acid jar."

Is ms is out of ideas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574271)

I guess ms might be out of ideas. If you can't keep up with 2013, you might as well attempt to keep up with 1970.

Soon (1)

Flavianoep (1404029) | about a year ago | (#44574275)

Researchers will find an alternative for phones that don't have either Bluetooth, NFC nor acoustic data sharing.

Re:Soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574437)

Camera + display. Needs a front-camera though for 2-way communication.

btw: Of what use would a phone be without acoustic interfaces?

Re:Soon (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about a year ago | (#44574461)

You can do acoustic data sharing with a basic app, so all smartphones will have it sooner or later.

Human whistles (1)

Skiron (735617) | about a year ago | (#44574281)

As soon as it is released, I bet a load of people could fool this crap just by whistling a few notes.

Re:Human whistles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575043)

Kevin Mitnick will surely see an enourmous increase in demand for his consultancy business.

NFC (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about a year ago | (#44574295)

Near Field Communication

Why would it need a carrier tone? (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#44574297)

Unlike a modem that requires a carrier tone, two acoustic devices that need to send a couple frames of data (such as a Diffie-Hellman exchange) could easily send and receive the data with a few bursts. DACs and ADCs are good enough to be able to discern the encoded static, find errors and correct them, and pass the decoded packets along. This wouldn't be fast, but it would be good enough for creating a shared secret or just validating each other's public keys so future communications can be reliability secured without need of a CA.

Re:Why would it need a carrier tone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574471)

And how do you plan to validate their public key without a CA?

Re:Why would it need a carrier tone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574661)

And how do you plan to validate their public key without a CA?

What public key and why do you need one?

DH Key exchange creates a shared secret key (symmetric key for use with AES/Triple-DES/insert-symmetric-cipher-here).

Obviously if you and your friend are waving your phones at each other, you already know their identity and trust them so you have zero need for some third party to come in and check their driver's license for you to be sure. You just have the phones sync up with a shared key then communicate over the Internet.

Re:Why would it need a carrier tone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574975)

"Public key validation" was the second option given by the GP. You're right that you don't "need" option 2 because you can use option 1, but it would be just as correct to claim that you don't need option 1 because you can use option 2. Better to leave the two options open for now.

Re:Why would it need a carrier tone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574669)

You're sure that the public key that your friend's phone gives you is your friend's public key because there's not enough room between your two phones for a man-in-the-middle attack.

Re:Why would it need a carrier tone? (2)

Migraineman (632203) | about a year ago | (#44575229)

And how do you plan to validate their public key without a CA?

That's easy - just have the phones exchange keys over Bluetooth.

Re:Why would it need a carrier tone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574507)

Ok, then why do modems require a carrier tone?

Re:Why would it need a carrier tone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574577)

For your suggestion to make sense you need to add that "future communications" would be done using WiFi or Bluetooth.

Amazing Development (4, Funny)

elysiuan (762931) | about a year ago | (#44574381)

It's almost like they're modulating a signal and then demodulating it. I wonder if there's a name for this sort of thing.

Re:Amazing Development (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574901)

It's almost like they're modulating a signal and then demodulating it. I wonder if there's a name for this sort of thing.

Well, clearly you'd want to come up with a name that combines the traits of modulating the signal and then demodulating it on the receiving end. I'll suggest... oh... the sigulator.

Re:Amazing Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575387)

I suggest modemogizmo

Oh; this is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574389)

I recall some technology that transmitted data over POTS lines with sound. What the fax is that called again?

Re:Oh; this is new? (0)

davydagger (2566757) | about a year ago | (#44574475)

a modem?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_coupler

"Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete" (1)

jkrise (535370) | about a year ago | (#44574417)

"Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all"... that is the code for activating the system...

Gives new meaning to acoustic coupling . . . (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#44574465)

Everyone's already noticed that this is just an acoustically coupled modem setup. But this is better. Put the receiver of one by the speaker of the other and vice-versa. Now you've got two phones literally coupling, like 69, soixante-neuf, right there on the table at Starbucks.

Re:Gives new meaning to acoustic coupling . . . (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44575225)

Everyone's already noticed that this is just an acoustically coupled modem setup. But this is better. Put the receiver of one by the speaker of the other and vice-versa. Now you've got two phones literally coupling, like 69, soixante-neuf, right there on the table at Starbucks.

The only thing that could make it better is if the "self jamming" sounds like moaning...

New developments (1)

davydagger (2566757) | about a year ago | (#44574467)

http://blog.ncf.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/apple_apple2_acoustic-coupler_1.jpg

I hope this thing works faster than 300 baud

Third-party Hardware (1)

chinton (151403) | about a year ago | (#44574477)

The only drawback is that you need this [craziestgadgets.com] aftermarket hardware to plug it into the cradle.

India (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574499)

It was invented at MS India.

It IS a new original idea for the persons involved.

The persons involved are probably younger than the last produced acoustic couplers, possibly modems, and even then there were not many of those in India when they existed, and there was no internet to learn about them either. Most information about them only exists printed on dead trees.

Re:India (1)

Skiron (735617) | about a year ago | (#44574767)

[quote]and even then there were not many of those in India when they existed[/quote]

India[ns] have been around for ages?

Polar bicycle computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574595)

I have a Polar bicycle computer that is over 5 years old. To program some of the settings, the unit must receive the data via sounds from the desktop's speakers.

Re:Polar bicycle computer (1)

Skiron (735617) | about a year ago | (#44574791)

I have a Polar bicycle computer that is over 5 years old.

Did you miss a 0 out?

Shall we.... (1)

CFD339 (795926) | about a year ago | (#44574681)

...Play a game?

Re:Shall we.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575067)

Shall we .. Play a game?

Microsoft is a strange game. The only winning move is not to play

Re:Shall we.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575085)

Neah. The only winning move is not to play anyway, so let's not even bother.

Ordering (1)

Optimal Cynic (2886377) | about a year ago | (#44574789)

I had this idea a while ago as a way to order from a drive-through window. Create your order on the McApp, hold the phone up to the drive-through speaker box and it squawks the order through in a second. Pops up on the operator's screen, they read out the price and you go through without having to yell "I said NO ONIONS" over and over again. When I researched it, turned out there was an Apple patent covering exactly that use case so I gave up on it. I wonder if the MS researchers will run into issues with that bit of IP.

the drive-through speaker systems need to be bette (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44575239)

the speaker systems the drive-through speaker systems need to be better for that to work. Some of them are real bad.

why??? (2, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about a year ago | (#44574853)

Don't all these devices have bluetooth transceivers already?

It's like my washing machine? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574855)

My LG front loader has a way to send diagnostic data to the factory; you hold the phone's mic to the washer and it sends data to the factory (which you presumably have to call first).

By jove! They've invented acoustic coupled modems! (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#44574987)

By jove! They've invented acoustic coupled modems!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_coupler [wikipedia.org]

Someone has been watching War Games again!

More secure... (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | about a year ago | (#44575051)

More secure ... tell me more.

Near field communication always sounded like a bad idea. This tells me that it is worse than I imagined.

If an acoustic coupling method/process is an improvement then the security of near field communication is in a sad state indeed.

OR this is a sad attempt to promote a patented standard to extract more $$ from hither and yon...

But can it change TV channels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575105)

This reminds me of the old TV remote controls that had a set of tuning forks. Press a button for channel up and a hammer hits a fork. Channel down is a different fork.

Illiri? (1)

globz (2832793) | about a year ago | (#44575147)

Sounds like this shit called Illiri http://illiri.com/api.html [illiri.com]

And the new technology is called... (2)

Y2K is bogus (7647) | about a year ago | (#44575295)

Cell69, because that's what your phones do to make it work.

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