Innovators have spent the past several decades moving in a wireless direction. We are now at the point of being able to get any and everything we want at the tap of a phone screen from nearly anywhere in the world, and convenience is at an all-time high. Online commerce has created a demand for an array of technology that would enable quick and convenient payment systems, resulting in the digital payment business becoming the multibillion dollar industry it is today.
Integrating the element of sound into eCommerce technology is nothing new, but it is expanded in functionality and quickly becoming a mainstream method of payment. Everything from dog barks to a human voice and be considered ‘data-over-sound’, and even those old-school noises heard via dial-up connections are a form of computers communicating with each other via data-over-sound.
Here’s how it works:
One device is programmed to take a selection of data, like a block of text or personal banking information, and convert it into a sequence of sounds that another device is programmed to decode. The receiving device is programmed to decipher this block of sound and translates it back to its original form.
Think of it like a more complex version of Morse Code in a sense that you are translating a series of text into audio pulses for another party to decipher. But since it would take an extremely long time to send complex data this way, programmers assign a range of simultaneous audio frequencies in order to send more information within less audio. Developers also must carefully consider the audio frequencies they use for these types of data transfers, so these transmissions can stand out and be deciphers by the recipient device even in noisy situations like a sporting event or concert venue.
Why Use Audio QR:
Near-Field Communications (NFC), like mobile wallets and tap-to-pay technology are designed to be used with smartphones. But while it can seem like everyone on earth owns a smartphone, this is in fact not even close to the truth. Recent census data indicates that while over 80% of people who live below the poverty line own a cellphone, less than half own an actual smartphone. Audio QR is an excellent stopgap to this problem, as it is compatible with all mobile phones and not just smartphones. Companies like TicketMaster, Amazon, and MasterCard have recognized the fact that offering the option of using audio QR technology to facilitate eCommerce transactions essentially offers buying power to large sectors of society who do not own Smartphones.
Upon initial consideration, audio QR may seem unsecure and easy to compromise, since theoretically anybody can be listening. Transmitting crucial data like payment credentials could seem daunting, but rest assured, this type of data can and is encrypted, just like other secure cellular-data transmissions. Some experts have put forth the notion that audio could in fact be one of the more secure options for data transmission, because in many cases, it is hard to tell when exactly the data is being sent. Additionally, sound-based transactions are conducted through several layers of encryption which forces time-based, one-time password entry. Many eCommerce and data security experts agree that ultrasonic payment methods are safer than traditional digital payments like entering credit card information into various fields on a website, or even NFCs.