Microsoft India team develop secure Peer-to-Peer acoustic NFC system

Aug 16, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Microsoft India team develop secure Peer-to-Peer acoustic NFC system
JamSecure. Credit: Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, et al.

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at Microsoft India has developed an alternative to standard NFC communications between hand-held devices—a software only system that makes use of the speaker and microphone already in use by phones and other devices. Called (Dhwani-"sound" in English) the new system can transmit small amounts of data without the need for any additional hardware.

Standard NFC communications, based on RFID, allow two devices to communicate with one another without having to access a network. Despite a lot of press coverage (and hardware to support it becoming standard in a lot of phones) NFC has failed to take off—for it to succeed other vendors, such as , would need to add hardware to their existing equipment. To get around this problem, the engineers in India have done away with the need for additional hardware choosing instead to take advantage of the acoustic abilities inherent in virtually any (including the iPhone). It works on roughly the same principle as old-school modems, which means it uses beeps, squeaks, squawks and other noises to send and receive data.

Dhwani is slow by any measure with a data rate of just 2.4 Kbps. For that reason, no one is going to be using it to send pictures or video, instead, it's meant to send data such as that used for transactions. The development team says it's more secure than RFID based NFC communications as well because it's based on a Jam-Secure technique—where it sends self-jamming noise along with self-cancelation to avoid eavesdropping—anyone else listening in would hear only chaotic noise.

To use the new system, two download the software, run it, then place their phones together where the speaker for one is next to the of the other (its range is approximately 10 centimeters). The developers claim that ambient noise won't pose a problem for the exchange, thus paving the way for its use in virtually any environment where people use their phones.

Of course for the system to work, other vendors must write apps for it to allow the two phones, or phone and other equipment to carry out proprietary transactions. Whether that will happen or not, is still unclear, but if it does, the new software could be a game-changer.

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More information: research.microsoft.com/apps/pu… fault.aspx?id=192134
Dhwani : Secure Peer-to-Peer Acoustic NFC, research.microsoft.com/pubs/19… 4/Paper325Dhwani.pdf

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User comments : 4

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antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 16, 2013
instead to take advantage of the acoustic abilities inherent in virtually any smartphone (including the iPhone)

Gotta hand it to those clever bastards at Apple: Including a microphone and a speaker? Who would have thought of that? In a phone! I bet they patented that right away!

No, seriously...why do they say 'virtually' any smartphone. Is there any smartphone (or phone for that matter) that doesn't have a speaker/microphone?

OK, that was my gripe with the journalism. The method is actually quite clever. Not sure it's completly eavesdrop proof, though (I'd already be itching to try a laser microphone trained on the casing of the sending/receiving phone). But given that RF propagates much more easily than sound it seems that spying on this might be a lot harder.
QuixoteJ
not rated yet Aug 16, 2013
The developers claim that ambient noise won't pose a problem for the exchange, thus paving the way for its use in virtually any environment where people use their phones
This part seems dubious. Noise is a problem for all communication channels, and they have chosen a very noisy one, especially in the environments where monetary transactions are being made. I am sure it can operate in the presence of noise, but they seem over-confident.
it uses beeps, squeaks, squawks and other noises
Hey everyone! Stop beeping, sqeaking, and squawking or making other noises while I purchase my hot dog through a digital wallet transaction! Thanks!
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 17, 2013
Most speakers and microphones work also somewhat outside the range of human speech. If they use that range then noisy places with people gabbling won't affect it much.

And of course you can use all the usual error correction schemes that you can use in electronic data transfer just as well in sound based data transfer.
alfie_null
not rated yet Aug 17, 2013
The developers claim that ambient noise won't pose a problem for the exchange, thus paving the way for its use in virtually any environment where people use their phones
This part seems dubious. Noise is a problem for all communication channels, and they have chosen a very noisy one, especially in the environments where monetary transactions are being made. I am sure it can operate in the presence of noise, but they seem over-confident.

The Fine Paper describes how they chose a band that is relatively unaffected by high levels of ambient noise. Also the steps they have taken to ensure error-free communication (e.g. scrambling, CRCs).