Microsoft Research comes up with way to transfer files via sound

If your mobile phone has a speaker and a microphone, you may soon be able to use them to transfer files to other mobile phones without the need for any special hardware. That's the promise of a recently published paper by Microsoft Research that describes what it calls Secure Peer-to-Peer Acoustic NFC.

Usually NFC (Near Field Communication) requires that a special chip be put inside a mobile phone or tablet in order to work. However, there are still a ton of mobile phones out there without NFC hardware. The Microsoft Research paper from the company's India team has come up with a software only solution for all those phones, which has the name Dhwani.

In very basic terms, once the Dhwani software is installed on mobile phones, one of them can use sound to transmit data via the speaker to another phone's microphone. According to the team that created Dhwani, they have been able to use the software to transfer data at a rate of 2.4 kilobits per second. Yes, that's very slow but the researchers say it would be enough to enable a phone with the software to send a payment to a store counter or another phone, among other applications.

What about if another phone is nearby? Microsoft Research has that covered as well with what it calls JamSecure. The paper's authors summarizes the technique stating,  " ... the receiver intentionally jams the signal it is trying to receive, thereby stymieing eaves-droppers, but then uses self-interference cancellation to successfully decode the incoming message."

Source: Microsoft Research via Extreme Tech
Two phones image via Shutterstock

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43 Comments

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Sorry guys, but a modem will not work just holding it up in the air for the other side to hear. The SNR would totally kill it. This is a much more advanced signalling method.

Why do u show iPhone in the picture? tHe article is about Microsoft doing this. Should you be using Windows Phones? I mean if this was an Apple article, would you show a non-Apple device? I mean that is really unprofessional.

Fark some of you are negative 'jump on the bandwagon' types. Yes the "technology" is nothing new and old but its news because the software is new. I haven't seen any other apps that offer NFC like technology to phones that don't have the hardware combined with built in albeit still flawed jamming technology into the software.

This has been going on since we had to put in a basic cassette into a tape player to load

an operating system, games or programs into out home computers.

I used to record programs from the t.v. and then load them onto my zx81.

So how is this new?

Not April 1st yet.

leesmithg said,
This has been going on since we had to put in a basic cassette into a tape player to load

an operating system, games or programs into out home computers.

I used to record programs from the t.v. and then load them onto my zx81.

So how is this new?

Not April 1st yet.

It can be used for free simple transactions on low end hardware. (Think emerging infrastructures that adding in NFC chips would be prohibitive.)

Obviously the technology isn't new, in fact it goes back before your experience with the cassette tape. Seriously, go look technologies used in the 1700/1800s.

Well, all the good modem jokes have been made. Still, I'll admit its a novel way to use an old tech using software. In theory it could upgrade every smartphone out there, although until speeds get faster I don't see a lot of practical uses I'd be comfortable with.

And am I the only one who found the sound of modems soothing? Just imagine the world filled with those trills and gronks....

Yup, my TS/1000 used to do this... and many a PC before broadband... I assume a bunch of modem patents ran out.

Well this isn't really that new. My Grandad was using his Ham Radio to receive satellite weather pictures on his computer, using sound.


What about if another phone is nearby? Microsoft Research has that covered as well with what it calls JamSecure. The paper's authors summarizes the technique stating, " ... the receiver intentionally jams the signal it is trying to receive, thereby stymieing eaves-droppers, but then uses self-interference cancellation to successfully decode the incoming message."


Basically the receiving phone is throwing out a bunch of interference, so all the sounds together come out as being one, random sound. Then the receiving phone knows what sounds it transmitted, and filters those out of it's microphone. Voila!

Using multiple microphones, you can calculate which sound came from which direction allowing you to filter out the interference. There is no such thing as random when it comes to computers.

ILikeTobacco said,
Using multiple microphones, you can calculate which sound came from which direction allowing you to filter out the interference. There is no such thing as random when it comes to computers.

Which is, obviously, the biggest problem with the system (heck, even someone with MSR's own Kinect sensor could separate the sounds ;D). I have yet to read the source, though, it's possible Microsoft may have found a way around it.

It's nothing more than using the property of waveform superposition, whereby a component waveform can be isolated from the composite waveform, using good old Fourier transform catalysis and synthesis equations

ILikeTobacco said,
Using multiple microphones, you can calculate which sound came from which direction allowing you to filter out the interference. There is no such thing as random when it comes to computers.

OK, read through it a bit, and they do seem to accept that as a major problem:

However, unlike Shannon's OTP, Dhwani does not apply the OTP encryption at the transmitter itself and may be vulnerable to certain attacks such as those based on shielding and directional antennas

(8, Security Analysis)

So...they have discovered the modem again? In other news: scientist discovers that it is possible to transmit sound using 2 tin cans and a piece of string!

there was a radioshow in the 80's over here that transmitted programs over the air. You taped it, and than loaded it onto your Atari ST ;-P

Vinylchan said,
Article about Microsoft & NFC

Two things that isn't part of the iphone which is used in the article's picture

Because as the article explains this is an alternative to devices without NFC - surprisingly like the pictured iPhones!

Fred 69 said,

Because as the article explains this is an alternative to devices without NFC - surprisingly like the pictured iPhones!

But there are Windows Phones that don't have NFC as well, so what's your point?

TechieXP said,
But there are Windows Phones that don't have NFC as well, so what's your point?

The point is that if you want an NFC enabled phone, the Windows Phone ecosystem can provide you with one, the iPhone ecosystem cannot. Yet.

As many Neowinian's may be to young to remember, in the 70's and 80's an acoustically coupled modem using a "Princess phone" style "standard" handset topped out at 1200 baud. Today that handset standard is still in use when you can find a public phone in the U.S. but consumer phones have long since lost that standard handset design, though TTY terminals still use acoustic modems. In the U.S. direct electrical connections to the phone system made acoustically coupled modems obsolete by the mid-80's. The movie Wargames was the last time most people ever saw an acoustically coupled modem. :-)