NFC has been hailed as the next big thing for a few years now, but adoption has been a lot slower than anticipated with people required to update their phones to NFC-capable models to take advantage of the technology. Brazilian startup Kinetics has developed a new communication technology called NearBytes that allows data transfer between older smartphones, including all existing Android and iOS smartphones, by using sound.
Pitched as an alternative to Near Field Communication (NFC), NearBytes sees the transmitting device encrypt the data and send it as a series of chirps that sound similar to a cricket. The receiving device then captures these sounds and decodes the data. As it relies only on the devices' microphone and speaker, NearBytes doesn't require any special hardware. The only requirement is that the devices be within 10 cm (3.93 inches) of each other.
With a data transfer rate of around 100 kbps, NearBytes is more suitable for swapping small amounts of data than for streaming high definition video and is around four times slower than NFC's maximum transmission rate. However, Kinetics claims the technology has been successfully tested in noisy places such as train stations.
“Any app based on NFC will take several years to become mainstream. NearBytes makes all those apps that are waiting for NFC available right now, giving them a headstart of several years in the market,” says Kinetics CFO Marcelo Ramos. He adds his technology is very inclusive because it is compatible with just about every device out there, even legacy ones.
The SDK was made available in May and a beta program with several license models is available to developers. E-wallets, loyalty and mileage apps, contact sharing, vending machine payment systems, sign-in and turnstile apps are some of the possible applications Marcelo mentions.
NearBytes was developed as part of a R&D track Marcelo opened when Kinetics was going to develop a sticker album game. They wanted to make it easier for users to swap stickers, which is "where the fun is," says Marcelo. After looking at other standards, such as Bluetooth and NFC, the team decided to develop their own and NearBytes was born. Ironically, the sticker album game did not see the light of day.
Kinetics is now raising funds to organize a roadshow to further promote the technology.