can data-over-audio technology replace QR codes

Recently we talked about the project, which allows you to transfer data via WebRTC using sound. Let’s discuss another audio technology that already occupies the niche of contactless payments in supermarkets, restaurants and even transport.

Photo: Mitya Ivanov.  Source:
Photo: Mitya Ivanov. Source:

Risks of QR Codification

Since their appearance in the 1990s, QR codes have been used in trade, manufacturing, logistics and finance. Perhaps many paid for services and accounts in cafes and restaurants by simply scanning a QR code on a receipt or receipt.

Some countries have taken this approach to a new level. In China, more than 85% of payments are made using 2D barcodes. In India, the monthly number of such transactions exceeds 250 million – for example, since 2018, residents of Delhi can purchase metro ticket in the mobile app, and then scan the generated QR code at the turnstile. India and Singapore even are planning combine national payment systems to facilitate international money transfers – using the same QR codes.

But despite the widespread popularity of technology, it has its own limitations. Reading a QR code is not always convenient, especially if the scanner is static – sometimes a smartphone with a barcode on the screen has to be handed over to the seller. There are certain risks in terms of information security.

To copy a QR code, it is enough to take a photo of it, which makes it an easy target for scammers. At the same time, it is difficult to tell from the appearance of the code what will happen after scanning. Attackers use this to plant links to malware. Only in 2020 QR codes caused theft of $18.5 million worldwide, and a year ago McAfee analysts introduced related phishing in the top IS threats.

A number of companies are developing alternative technologies that do not have these disadvantages. One of the promising directions is data-over-audiowhen the information is broadcast in encrypted form over an audio channel.

How does the data sound?

One of the companies operating in this niche is called LISNR. Its software encodes the data into an analog signal at a frequency 14 to 19 kHzthat is, he may be both heard and inaudible to the human ear. The receiving party picks up the signal with a microphone and decodes the message.

By words developers, the technology allows you to broadcast data at speeds up to 1000 bps. Another solution that allows transactions to be carried out over an audio channel is called Near Sound Data Transfer. EDS is responsible for the security of transactions, which is formed on the basis of a one-time password.

Interestingly, libraries for transmitting data using sound are also offered by independent developers. An example would be a new open project ggwave. The library allows you to analyze sound waves recorded by audio devices. At the same time, it is compatible with various architectures, including ALSA and PulseAudio. A similar development is Quiet Modem Projectwhich built based pulse code modulation.

Are there any prospects

data-over-audio already used by retailers. It is enough for the buyer to launch the application on a smartphone and bring it to the reader at the checkout. Similarly, it is already possible pay for bus fares.

But there are peculiarities – audio technology solves some of the problems of QR codes related to information security, but creates new challenges. So, a smartphone with an acoustic QR code turns into an ultrasonic beacon. In theory, it can be used to track the movements of the user.

At the same time, technology data over sound has a number of physical limitations – in particular, it can be sensitive to background noise, and some receiving devices just don’t register inaudible part of the spectrum.

Photo: Proxyclick.  Source:
Photo: Proxyclick. Source:

In general, the technology of sound QR codes is gradually gaining momentum. But it can be assumed that before the mass distribution will take some time. Developers should pay special attention to the protection of personal data.

Do you think the technology has a future, or is it destined to remain a niche product?

Additional reading on the topic in our “World of Hi-Fi”:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply