16th Aug, 2013
Microsoft Research India Develops Secure NFC Alternative
Allows payment and file transfer without the need for any special hardware.
Microsoft Research's team based in India has come up with a innovative technique to transfer files and payments using only the speaker and microphone. This alternative to NFC is only a software solution, which has been named Dhwani. The Secure Peer-to-Peer Acoustic NFC uses sound to transmit data from the speaker of a phone to the microphone of another.
Dhwani allows data transfer at the rate of 2.4 kilobits per second, which may seem slow for file transfer, but should be sufficient for payments and transactions purpose as claimed by the researchers. The solution employs 'JamSecure' technology to prevent anyone from eavesdropping on the signals. This security feature is achieved by transmitting an ambient noise called 'shroud' along with the signal, which will be picked up by any eavesdropper and will render the data unusable for him/her.
The research team consists of Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, Krishna Kant Chintalapudi, Venkat Padmanabhan, and Ramarathnam Venkatesan. The technology can have a huge impact on the mobile payment scenario based on the fact that not all smartphones carry NFC hardware. Practically any manufacturer can enable Dhwani on its device by simply installing the software to add NFC-like functionality on their phone. This will actually be a boon for low-cost Android phone makers because there is almost no additional cost involved other than a probable licencing agreement with Microsoft. Most importantly, Apple, which has so far shied away from putting an NFC chip on its iPhone, may also be interested in this technology. Of course, this should not be so difficult, especially considering that the two giants have already been working together to have certain agreements in place. You may read the research paper here[PDF file].