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Secure data transmission with ultrasound on the mobile phone


by the University of Applied Sciences of St. Poelten

SoniTalk screenshot. Credit: St. Pölten UAS

Ultrasonic communication is a whole new method of exchanging data between IoT devices and mobile phones. Communication between them is inaudible and the hardware requirements are reduced to a minimum: microphone and speakers. Researchers at St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences have now developed a first open communication protocol comprising an open source development kit for ultrasound communication under the name SoniTalk.

The technology is available for free and, unlike similar technologies, focuses on security and data protection. In this way, SoniTalk leaves it up to users to decide which applications and devices are allowed to communicate using ultrasound, and in which cases.

Connected devices

The networking of devices in everyday life and in businesses is on the increase. Until now, ultrasound communication has received little attention, although it is a promising technology for ad hoc data exchange and near field communication and presents a channel for authentication. secure devices and people.

“Individual companies have already developed approaches to ultrasound communication but the technologies are subject to the copyright of these companies and some of them raise questions regarding the protection of user privacy. This is why an open protocol was urgently needed in order to guarantee communication security and protect privacy, ”explains Matthias Zeppelzauer, senior researcher at the Institute of CreativeMedia / Technologies at UAS St. Pölten.

Secure data transmission with ultrasound on the mobile phone

SoniTalk. Credit: St. Pölten UAS

Technology available free of charge and improved data protection

Together with his colleagues Alexis Ringot and Florian Taurer, Zeppelzauer has developed such an open and transparent communication protocol for data transmission by ultrasound (Data Over Sound). SoniTalk is available for free as an open source technology. The software development kit of the same name was implemented using Java for Android and can send and receive any data in the ultrasound frequency range. SoniTalk thus represents an inexpensive alternative to Bluetooth and other radio communication technologies such as RFID (radio frequency identification) and NFC (near field communication).

“We have developed SoniTalk in accordance with the principle of ‘privacy by design’. This means that privacy protection mechanisms have been taken into account from the start of the design of the system. SoniTalk users retain full control over the system. ‘application allowed to send what content, which helps them protect their own privacy, “describes Zeppelzauer.

Precursor Project Ultrasound Firewall and Legal Considerations

With so-called audio tracking, cell phones and tablets can use ultrasound to track user behavior without being noticed, such as the videos they are watching or their location. Last year in the spring, Zeppelzauer and colleagues released their SoniControl app which can block acoustic tracking. They are currently developing the app to make it even more appealing to users. It is supposed to be integrated into the SoniTalk protocol in the future to ensure secure data transmission there.

Following the publication of SoniControl, two Viennese lawyers specializing in data protection and IT carried out a legal assessment of this form of monitoring and called for more transparency in the treatment of the new technology. According to them, the explicit consent of users to transmit data via ultrasound is essential – SoniTalk and its underlying technology protocol now solve this problem.

Companies wanted: benefit for industry, art and everyday life

SoniTalk enables new functions and services for digitization: for example, SoniTalk could be used to authenticate and verify data and people, to track objects in production (asset tracking), the establishment of local networks (ad networks) hoc), for mobile payment and money transfer, device pairing and smart home control.

In the near future, SoniTalk is expected to be tested in practice in its first Industry 4.0 applications. To this end, Matthias Zeppelzauer and his colleagues are currently developing a suitable ultrasonic beacon (a type of loudspeaker) for location-dependent services on the basis of SoniTalk. This tag is then supposed to be made available as free material and in open format.

According to Zeppelzauer, the target group includes companies and individuals from the IT sector and Industry 4.0, suppliers of inland navigation systems and cashless / contactless payment systems, artists and museums wishing to design interactive exhibits. , as well as the open source community.

As the new technology is available as an open source system, interested parties, developers and businesses can adapt and improve it as needed. Researchers at UAS St. Pölten also plan to further develop the technology behind SoniTalk and are currently looking for companies looking to take advantage of the new technology.

Ultrasonic firewall for mobile phones

More information:

Provided by St. Poelten University of Applied Sciences

Quote: Secure transmission of data by ultrasound on mobile phone (November 21, 2019, retrieved October 9, 2021 from

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