Ultrasound isn’t just for doctor’s offices. Israeli startup DOV-E wants to use it for mobile payments and advertising
You’ve heard of ultrasound for detecting fetuses in the womb and you may also have heard of therapeutic ultrasound – high intensity sound waves that can be used to zap tumors in the body.
A one-and-a-half-year-old Israeli startup called DOV-E wants to use ultrasound to communicate with mobile devices. It’s a brilliant idea that has many potential uses but DOV-E has focused on two: push notifications and mobile payment. These uses also happen to be easy to monetize.
Sounds we can’t hear
To understand how DOV-E’s technology works, one must understand that any flow of energy can transmit information. Radio, WiFi and cellular transmission are all based on electromagnetic energy, for example.
When one person speaks to another, they are transmitting information wirelessly, as long as they are in close enough proximity. Ultrasound consists of sound waves that human ears can’t hear because their frequency is to high. But dogs can hear them, and your mobile phone can pick them up too.
That’s where DOV-E’s brilliant idea comes in.
“Ultrasound is everywhere,” the company’s CEO Yehuda Yehudai told this reporter at Microsoft’s Think Next Conference. “No one is using it nowadays. It can be used as a resource to interact with our mobiles.”
At short distances, any electronic device can emit ultrasound waves that any mobile device can theoretically pick up. Best of all, humans can’t hear them so they can transmit private information and won’t be distracting.
“We can turn any speaker into a device that can interact with our mobile devices,” Yehudai said, pointing out that it’s a great method of short-range communication typically used for payment and identification purposes.
Yehuda also says that television and radio speakers can be used to send longer range push notifications — for instance, if you are shopping in a supermarket, a speaker there can send you promotions for strawberries.
Cheaper than the Internet of Things
One day, futurists promise us, every humble lamp post, trash can and vending machine will be connected to the Internet. But that is still far from the case. So how can you carry out mobile payments, at say, a vending machine?
“We do it by putting a low-cost device inside the vending machine which has a microphone and a speaker and that device interacts with your mobile phone in a two-way communication,” explained Yehudai.
“So this allows mobile payment, and while we do the payment, we actually send inventory information from the vending machine to the server letting it know if it’s full or empty. And the third thing is 99 percent of the time, when the machine is not busy making payment, it basically sends promotions using the device.”
The advantage, said Yehudai, is that it’s a lot cheaper than the Internet of Things.
“It’s a lot cheaper: It doesn’t involve roaming costs for the vending machine, just one-time hardware costs.”
Despite only being around for a year and a half, DOV-E is already working with large enterprises like Coca-Cola and Amdocs to develop mobile wallet apps.
But isn’t that a lot of noise and fuss just to pay for a soda more efficiently? Could there be such a thing as ultrasound pollution?
You’ll have to ask your dog.