Soundwave communication is a technology that enables every mobile device to use digital payments without the need of supporting hardware required by other protocols such as Bluetooth, WiFi, QR code and NFC (Near Field Communications), says Kumar Abhishek, co-founder, ToneTag.
ToneTag is a sound-wave communication technology platform which enables payments and close proximity customer engagement services on any device, independent of the instrument or the infrastructure.
“Sound as a communication protocol is great compared to everything else because if you have to build great experiences you need natural energy form. But the critical thing is that once you have identified this tech, the verticals where one can create an impact have to be spotted. Payments is definitely one of them as because of the level of innovation and disruption happening on a mobile phone.” says Kumar.
Challenges of using sound technology
The startup faced a lot of challenges in controlling sound and using it as a form of technology.
“The only challenge was that sound being a natural energy form, it was very difficult to control it to transfer data, similar to using light as it also moves in every direction and have a directional messaging,” he said.
On big tech companies moving towards sound-based technology, he said, "If you see the largest tech companies, they are pushing themselves towards natural energy forms. Whether it is Google, Amazon, Facebook, all of them are building solutions which can make human and machine interactions more natural."
Concerning the privacy around its usage, he said that in sound, the microphone listens to only specific patterns or data and it will churn a lot of battery of the device if it is continuously listening and processing.
"With ToneTag we don't listen to the human voice. Here, the machine generates a specific tone, which the other (receiver) machine can only understand. So Tonetag does not use voice processing, it is a tone processing. There is no issue of privacy and it is more secure than existing products then QR or NFC or Bluetooth," he says.
Google also uses sound to transfer money on its Google Pay app. The app works on a phone with a mic and speaker, and it doesn’t require an NFC chip.
According to reports, there are around 400 million smartphone users in India and NFCs are still rare and expensive.ToneTag has raised $8.1 million as Series B from Amazon and Mastercard. Existing investors include Reliance Capital, 3one4 Capital, Amansa Capital and others.