Internet of Business caught up with Moran Lerner, CEO of UK technology start-up Chirp, to talk sonic barcodes and how turning data into sound can help companies reach those network ‘deadspots’.
Q: What does Chirp do?
A: Chirp takes data and encodes it into unique audio streams. Any device with a speaker can transmit a ‘chirp’ and most devices with a microphone can decode it.
Chirp’s platform is designed to exist inside our customers’ technology and products. It bridges the
gaps between the many incompatible technologies available today and the incompatibilities that occur between older and newer systems. This disconnect holds back many industries. With low set-up costs and minimal hardware infrastructure, sound-based networking provides a bridge that can interconnect vastly different generations of technology.
The system is designed to either complement existing networking technologies or to work in offline environments, enabling machine-to-machine interactions and connecting non-networked but audio-capable equipment. As Chirp does not require devices to go through any prior ‘handshake’ process before they can exchange data, it is also used to connect disparate networks by providing a more friction-free set-up or pairing process.
Unlike other methods of data-over-sound transfer, such as watermarking and fingerprinting, Chirp does not require existing audio or media, and enables the forward sharing of data. With Chirp, the sound is the data.
Q: Who is Chirp targeting?
A: The potential applications for Chirp are incredibly wide ranging. We’re working to educate a variety of sectors on our capabilities. Our technology allows the exchange of small data packets in situations where it is neither possible nor desirable to use existing networking technologies due to prohibitive costs or restrictions on the use of Radio Frequency based networking technologies. Chirp also excels in areas of low or no network coverage, for example factory deadspots and within equipment without existing networking capabilities.
At present, we are experiencing high levels of market demand in sectors ranging from toys, interactive gaming, consumer goods brands and entertainment through to VR/AR, industrial robotics, IoT, manufacturing, transportation and ticketing.
Q: Can you tell us about the pilot programs you’re working on?
A: Chirp has already been implemented by our partners across millions of real-world devices operating in real-world situations. Major clients include [interactive gaming and entertainment company] Activision Blizzard for its latest installment of the $3bn Skylanders franchise – Skylanders Imaginators – and Shuttl in India for its ticketing and bus transportation solution.
Chirp is also being trialed in a nuclear facility of one of a major UK energy supplier, in order to enable personnel location tracking, access and authentication and data reporting from equipment within the facility. Due to RF restrictions in these kinds of environments, Chirp is the perfect solution.
Q: How does Chirp enable devices to communicate?
A: Data is encoded into a series of pitches and tones on the sending device and decoded on the receiving device. We refer to this method of transmitting data-over-sound as asmodulation/demodulation. These pitches and tones can be either ultrasonic, or audible where ultrasonic frequencies are unable to work, such as in radio broadcasting, or where the hardware is not capable of transmitting ultrasonic frequencies.
Q: How did you develop this solution?
A: Chirp was the first data-over-sound technology of its kind. After being developed by a team of experts in acoustics and communication at University College London, Chirp was initially launched globally in early 2011 in the form of an iOS and Android peer-to-peer app, which enabled users to transfer videos, photos, MP3s and other content between devices.
With years of extensive R&D behind us, Chirp has since pivoted away from the business-to-consumer market, and transitioned into a global business-to-business research and technology development house offering both a suite of SDKs suitable for a wide variety of platforms, as well as multiple other specialist acoustic services.
Q: How is the company funded?
A: Chirp is privately funded by high-net worth individuals, family office funds and large-scale strategic investors who share our global vision and ambition to be the single ubiquitous audio protocol for sharing and transmitting data using sound over the air.
Q: What are your future ambitions?
A: At Chirp, we love everything about sound and its applications in technology. Our goal is to deliver this new magic of the science of sound to the world better than anyone else imagined possible, and enable the interconnection of millions of new types of ‘things’ in a seamless, scalable and cost effective way.