Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Networking

MS Researchers Develop Acoustic Data Transfer System For Phones 180

Posted by timothy
from the just-do-it-quietly-ok dept.
angry tapir writes "Smartphones that support NFC have been making their way onto the market, but many handsets still don't support the wireless technology. As an alternative, Microsoft researchers have prototyped a system that instead uses a phone's microphone and speaker to transmit and receive data. The P2P data transfer system uses a novel technique of 'self-jamming' to stop nefarious third parties from monitoring transfers, and the researchers believe it's more secure than standard NFC communications. No word on whether it sounds like the squeal of a 56k modem."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MS Researchers Develop Acoustic Data Transfer System For Phones

Comments Filter:
  • by SDrag0n (532175) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:34AM (#44574123)
    It's amazing what comes back as "new developments"
    • by jaseuk (217780)

      I've actually been thinking for a while that this could be really good for challenge / response systems. Hold the phone up to the laptop, let it talk. A reliable character a second is probably less painful than dealing with a human.

      Jason.

      • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:48AM (#44574319) Homepage

        Wow, return of the acoustic modem. That really is a trip back in time. Was cutting-edge technology, back in the era of blinking-light consoles, when telephones were hardwired into the wall.

        Ah, nostalgia for the tech of yore.

        • by dmbasso (1052166)

          bload "cas:game", r

          When loading 32kb of data took several minutes... good old times! :)

          [now grandpa, come tell us how it was with the punch cards (but then the only sound involved was that of frustration)]

          • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @12:21PM (#44574677)

            Grandpa here.
                  My recollection is that paper tapes and punchcard readers where a lot faster than cassette tapes for loading in programs. The reason cassettes were nice is that that the cost of the reader hardware was cheap--you probably already had a casstte player. and the results were compact. In my experience the paper tapes were the most durable. the tapes tended to go bad on you or not work between different machines with different settings. If you dropped your punch card deck it could get scrambled. the paper tapes were compact and reliable.

            • ...If you dropped your punch card deck it could get scrambled.

              For me it was when you dropped your punch card deck, it would be scrambled.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Bing Tsher E (943915)

              If you dropped your punch card deck it could get scrambled. the paper tapes were compact and reliable.

              Better yet, punched card readers had a habit of crunching up the first card on the deck fairly often.

              The first card at the Batch Terminal that I used at the U of M back in the late 70's was the password card. So it was fairly common to be able to dig in the trash can next to the unattended Remote Batch Terminal in the History Building and find someone's mangled password card. Which could then be read/dec

          • by rossdee (243626)

            we had to punch our cards by hand using a unbent paper clip, and send them to the computer centre by mail

            (when I was in high school, programming in FORTRAN )

            • My CS professor told us that when he was a grad student, they'd have to insert s into their assembly to time data reads accurately, as they waited for a bit of data on a spinning drum to arrive underneath the read/write head.
              • ...damn tags- put two angle brackets around "NOOP" and it disappeared. Should read: "they'd have to insert NOOP's into their assembly".
              • by Anonymous Coward

                It is entirely unfit that any discussion of drum-memory machines should take place these days without someone mentioning the Story of Mel. It seems this honor has fallen to me, so enjoy! [pbm.com]

        • by farrellj (563) *

          Wow, I can now dust off my high-speed acoustic coupler! It would plug into the phone line out on a modem, and give you a decent percentage of the 14.4 Kbaud, say anywhere from 40-80%, depending on the phone, etc. I bought it because it meant that I could do support on Unix systems even if the only net connection I had available was a pay phone!

    • by tqk (413719)

      It's amazing what comes back as "new developments"

      Yeah, and from Multiple Sclerosis researchers yet.

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:55AM (#44574401)

      First this is a wonderful idea so I don't want to put it down as a useful contribution to the low bandwidth limited distance problem for comunications. Where the authors seem to go south here is the huge time they devote in the article to touting that NFC has no physical security and their system does via "jamSecure". Unless I'm missing something there's no reason, other than changing the standard, that radio based NFC could not also implement JamSecure and even do it better. The idea of JamSecure is that both ends of the communitcation channel transmit at the same time, anyone listening in hears the sum. If one of the emitters is sending simply random noise then the sum is randomized. Yet because the receiver knows what they are emitting they can subtract it out. Don't see why NFC cant do that. Also I don't see why having two (or more) microphones in different locations on an eaves dropper doesn't ruin the addition the encryption is relying on. At least with NFC you can have the transmitters be spatially diverse too, with sound that's harder.

      But for very close by communications using existing tech, why not use the screen and the camera? Each phone looks at the others screen and reads it. bandwith becomes the screen refreshrate time the number of resolvable pixels. Presumably at a meter or so that should be close to or better than sound in band width.

      • What I find curious about the emphasis on 'physical security'(while the mechanism used is clever) is that it seems to ignore the fact that "How can I safely communicate over an insecure channel?" is a relatively solved problem. Unless this scheme is unbearably slow, you just encrypt what goes over the wire (with the requirement for physical proximity hopefully preventing spoofing by a malicious node, not that NFC does anything different).

        As for screen/camera, I imagine that it's because not all phones have

        • by goombah99 (560566)

          What I find curious about the emphasis on 'physical security'(while the mechanism used is clever) is that it seems to ignore the fact that "How can I safely communicate over an insecure channel?" is a relatively solved problem. Unless this scheme is unbearably slow, you just encrypt what goes over the wire (with the requirement for physical proximity hopefully preventing spoofing by a malicious node, not that NFC does anything different).

          isn't the problem here, setting up the communication channel? for slow speed communication, the end goal may be just sending some short message like a credit card number. using something like a public key to exchange keys, might be very cumbersome, since those would grossly exceed the message length itself and thus require a much longer stable communication channel duration. That might not work with low bandwidth systems.

          As for screen/camera, I imagine that it's because not all phones have a camera on the same side as the screen. Virtually all phones have both items; but unless their locations differ enough between models and manufacturers that interfacing could get tricky.

          Why? how is that different than microphone placement or NFC antenna orientation.

          • "how is that different than microphone placement or NFC antenna orientation."

            Microphones and speakers are substantially closer to being omnidirectional than screens and cameras are. Many phones will deliberately cancel some of what they pick up, to get clearer voice input; but if set to speakerphone, your totally-unexceptional mic is impressively sensitive. A camera that isn't pointed right at the target screen, though, isn't going to be able to determine much more than approximate color and brightness.

            As f

      • Another flaw is that Jam Secure isn't either in the audio or the hypothesized radio implementation.

        A signal being jammed by another of comparable strength and nontrivial spacial separation can be received by TWO or more microphones, or antennas, also with nontrivial separation, and the signals sorted out in postprocessing (at "line speed").

        This is how MIMO works: Two (or more) transmitting antennas send different signals, two or more receiving antennas receive sums of them - which differ because each anten

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        NFC isn't supposed to have any security, any more than ethernet is. It's a transport protocol, low level. Security is on the layers above, typically at the application level.

        The fact that the researchers don't understand this doesn't inspire confidence. The biggest application for NFC is secure payments, and the security isn't in the NFC part.

      • Yeah, their "Jamsecure" technology can be defeated by simply using two microphones instead of one, and sampling at double the rate of the signal. After that, just feed the inverse of the first microphone's signal into the second on a delay based on the distance from the seocnd microphone... and then do the same to the reverse. Viola, both signals are reconstructed.

        Heterodyning only happens when you have a single receiver. MIMO technology and signal analysis has come a long way since then... you can separate

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Did they seriously just call a modem 'new' technology?

      • It's "on a mobile phone". That's "on a computer", "on the internet" and "in the cloud" all rolled into one.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      This just in: microsoft and/or apple patents "acoustical transmission", claims it is entirely different than modems - because it's.....wireless/uses a cellphone!

      amazing. /s

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The paper was accepted after peer review at ACM/Sigcomm, presumably the most selective computer networking conference. It would not have been accepted if this was just about reinventing acoustic coupling. The novel part there is the attention to physical security, the fact that the receiver deliberately jams the transmission to make it harder for third parties to eavesdrop. That's actually quite clever.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        The really clever thing is being able to just refuse to use your phone for financial transactions, removing the need for this in the first place.

    • by SIGBUS (8236)

      A few months back, I actually tried a 300 bps connection to a Diversi-Dial system over VoIP. It worked, for small values of "working." There was a surprising amount of line noise even though the VoIP connection was G.711 (64 kbps mu-law) and sounded crystal-clear for voice purposes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:35AM (#44574135)

    So they reinvented chirp.io ?

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:35AM (#44574141)

    "modem"

  • ...did they patent it yet?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:41AM (#44574201)

    GREETINGS PROFESSOR FALKEN.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When I hear acoustic couplers I pound on the wall so they know to keep it down.

  • Already done (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:44AM (#44574253)

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9217790/Sound_based_system_promises_chipless_NFC_now

  • by 3vi1 (544505) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:44AM (#44574255) Homepage Journal

    You can already transfer music between phones like this, but it's quite lossy depending on the quality of your speaker.

    • As a kid, I remember setting up my tape recorder at one end of our coffee table hi-fi so I could record Casey Kasem's Top 100 countdown on New Year's Eve. I'd have a couple friends over and we'd play board games all night - but always keeping an eye on the tape recorder so we'd be able to switch tapes at the right point so as not to miss any songs.

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:44AM (#44574259)
    "Mr. Watson, come here. I need you."
    • "Mr. Watson, come here. I need you."

      HTTP/1.1 203 Non-Authoritative Information

      What is: What SIRI said on our first date.

    • by wbr1 (2538558)

      "Mr. Watson, come here. I need you."

      You forgot the rest...

      "Mr. Watson, come here. I need you. Instructions unclear, penis stuck in acid jar."

  • As soon as it is released, I bet a load of people could fool this crap just by whistling a few notes.
  • by ISoldat53 (977164)
    Near Field Communication
  • by mlts (1038732) * on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:46AM (#44574297)

    Unlike a modem that requires a carrier tone, two acoustic devices that need to send a couple frames of data (such as a Diffie-Hellman exchange) could easily send and receive the data with a few bursts. DACs and ADCs are good enough to be able to discern the encoded static, find errors and correct them, and pass the decoded packets along. This wouldn't be fast, but it would be good enough for creating a shared secret or just validating each other's public keys so future communications can be reliability secured without need of a CA.

  • by elysiuan (762931) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @11:53AM (#44574381) Homepage

    It's almost like they're modulating a signal and then demodulating it. I wonder if there's a name for this sort of thing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's almost like they're modulating a signal and then demodulating it. I wonder if there's a name for this sort of thing.

      Well, clearly you'd want to come up with a name that combines the traits of modulating the signal and then demodulating it on the receiving end. I'll suggest... oh... the sigulator.

  • "Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all"... that is the code for activating the system...

  • Everyone's already noticed that this is just an acoustically coupled modem setup. But this is better. Put the receiver of one by the speaker of the other and vice-versa. Now you've got two phones literally coupling, like 69, soixante-neuf, right there on the table at Starbucks.

    • Everyone's already noticed that this is just an acoustically coupled modem setup. But this is better. Put the receiver of one by the speaker of the other and vice-versa. Now you've got two phones literally coupling, like 69, soixante-neuf, right there on the table at Starbucks.

      The only thing that could make it better is if the "self jamming" sounds like moaning...

  • http://blog.ncf.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/apple_apple2_acoustic-coupler_1.jpg

    I hope this thing works faster than 300 baud
  • The only drawback is that you need this [craziestgadgets.com] aftermarket hardware to plug it into the cradle.
  • ...Play a game?
  • I had this idea a while ago as a way to order from a drive-through window. Create your order on the McApp, hold the phone up to the drive-through speaker box and it squawks the order through in a second. Pops up on the operator's screen, they read out the price and you go through without having to yell "I said NO ONIONS" over and over again. When I researched it, turned out there was an Apple patent covering exactly that use case so I gave up on it. I wonder if the MS researchers will run into issues with
    • the speaker systems the drive-through speaker systems need to be better for that to work. Some of them are real bad.

    • At that point, why not have the order transmit electronically to the restaurant. You'd select the McDonald's that you want to order from (the app could pre-select a nearby one and you could override that if you preferred a different one), place your order, and you'd get a confirmation number. The order would appear on that restaurant's order screen and they would prepare it. By the time you arrived, your order would be ready to pick up. You could even tie it in with your credit card so that the meal is

      • by Amouth (879122)

        (Just don't order McDonald's food!)

        Fixed that for you :)

      • Because that over-complicates it. What if you're in a mobile internet deadspot, or don't have a data plan, etc etc. The idea was to keep it as simple as possible.
  • why??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sribe (304414) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @12:36PM (#44574853)

    Don't all these devices have bluetooth transceivers already?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    My LG front loader has a way to send diagnostic data to the factory; you hold the phone's mic to the washer and it sends data to the factory (which you presumably have to call first).
  • By jove! They've invented acoustic coupled modems!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_coupler [wikipedia.org]

    Someone has been watching War Games again!

  • More secure ... tell me more.

    Near field communication always sounded like a bad idea. This tells me that it is worse than I imagined.

    If an acoustic coupling method/process is an improvement then the security of near field communication is in a sad state indeed.

    OR this is a sad attempt to promote a patented standard to extract more $$ from hither and yon...

    • by gnu-sucks (561404)

      Establish trusted keys, encrypt the content, and then use whatever method you wish.

      Security should not rest on the security of the channel.

  • by Y2K is bogus (7647) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @01:22PM (#44575295)

    Cell69, because that's what your phones do to make it work.

  • This tech is old, they are called "ringtones" by others. They transfer information quite reliably telling others, "The phone is owned by a total *sshole" when certain things play with near 100% accuracy. MS is probably going to use this to patent ringtones, and start suing android vendors.....

                -Charlie

  • This is neat, although (as others have pointed out) not exactly a new idea. In a world where all cell phones have a speaker and microphone under software control (and in most cases, an accelerometer, supporting a "clink to sync" mechanism for short-term pairing), how did the concept of NFC, i.e. a separate antenna*, receiver chip and extremely application-specific software stack, ever get off the ground?

    The typical adult human cannot hear frequencies above about 15KHz (a child can - anyone remember that fly

Philogyny recapitulates erogeny; erogeny recapitulates philogyny.

Working...