With the proliferation of new smart home devices being made available to
consumers by both global organisations such as Google, Amazon and the likes,
as well as focused companies such as Nest Labs Inc, the connected home
marketplace is showing no signs of slowing. However, many companies operating
in the connected home marketplace face challenges that prevent them from
reaping the full rewards of the advancing technologies that enable household
devices to communicate with each other.

One of these challenges is that today, and likely for the foreseeable future,
the vast majority of electronic household devices are not able to connect to
home networks via wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC or even Wi-Fi.
Additionally, consumer hesitance to begin the process of transforming their
home into an automated, cost-efficient habitat is compounded by the perceived
complexity of the set-up process that is required to do so.

Chirp now makes it possible to solve many of these challenges by enabling data
transfer, control and automation between the vast majority of household
devices that could never be part of a connected home ecosystem and the small
amount of devices that can. It further allows devices outside “the home” to
interact with those inside it, through media such as TV broadcasts, radio
broadcasts, home PCs or even the smartphone. Even the dumbest doorbell, or a
greeting card can now interact with the home network.

A Chirp is a sonic barcode. Chirp technology comes as a data-over-audio
toolkit which can be embedded into virtually any audio-capable device,
enabling it to encode data and content into unique audio streams. Any device
with a speaker can transmit a chirp, and most devices with a microphone can
decode it and receive whatever is inside. Chirp’s technology provides a
bridge, interconnecting generations of technology, old and new, enabling the
transmission of data between devices that is just not possible using other
methods such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or NFC. Using streams of audio chirps,
equipment that was previously isolated can now communicate with the home
network. Chirp technology can also be used in conjunction with Bluetooth, NFC
or Wi-Fi to provide a more friction-free interaction, pairing process or set
up.

The Chirp team have been busy in our lab experimenting with Amazon Echo, the
hands-free speaker and member of Amazon’s portfolio of smart home technology
products that are powered by Alexa, Amazon’s intelligent voice control
service. The Echo was recently described by CNET as the best Smart Home
Centrepiece during their review of the Best Smart Home Devices of 2016.

Whilst Echo is able to control smart lights, switches, thermostats and other
household devices that are connected to a network, Chirp have now also enabled
it to transmit extensive data to offline devices, using only sound. To do
this, we embedded our technology into Activision’s Skylanders Imaginators
game, allowing players to share characters created in the game to the
companion mobile app, bypassing the console altogether. Setting our mobile
device to airplane mode before transferring the data, we used Echo and Alexa
to send a full Imaginators character with literally millions of different
designs, abilities, catchphrases and musical theme combinations, all offline!
See this in action:

Whilst Activision chose to work with Chirp technology due to its ability to
transfer an entire character’s-worth of data reliably, they also needed a
solution that could do so without using Wi-Fi or bluetooth because not all
video game consoles are online / bluetooth-enabled, and because a percentage
of parents prefer not to connect their kid’s console to the internet for
safety reasons, nor their mobile to data via the network.

Chirp technology not only answered the specific requirement of Activision and
other companies concerned with preserving privacy and child safety in the
home, but also provides a solution to the many companies operating in the
connected home marketplace that are looking to enable data transfer, control
and automation between the vast majority of household devices that could never
be part of a connected home ecosystem.

As Chirp technology does not require devices to go through any prior handshake
process before they can exchange data, the setup process is frictionless for
the user. However, used in conjunction with existing networking technologies
such as Wi-Fi, Chirp can also significantly reduce the number of
authentication steps required to connect network-enabled devices, providing a
more attractive prospect to the many consumers that are still hesitant to
begin their connected home transformation.

Since our Activision, and Alexa, projects, we’ve expanded our reach beyond the
consumer and the connected home into the industrial sectors. Our technology
has been selected for a number of large-scale smart factory and smart building
projects, and even one for an exciting smart city.

Automation and connectivity have been used in industrial environments for
decades, for example through machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and
remote control and monitoring of remote sites, delivering significant
operational and productivity benefits. And in recent years, this has extended
to what’s become known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) thanks to
the proliferation of smart devices, low-power embedded chips, and connected
sensors in the industrial site, providing unprecedented levels of visibility
and control for companies.

However, not all industrial environments are able to reap the full rewards of
the IIoT revolution. Older legacy equipment often cannot be networked, and
some environments present a range of unique communication and networking
challenges, such as regulatory restrictions on the use of radio frequency (RF)
networking technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth or restrictions on the
installation of cabling due to electromagnetic waves formed during specific
manufacturing processes. Companies face the challenge of either leaving the
equipment as-is and not enjoying the benefits of connectivity, or incurring
cost to upgrade or replace the equipment.

Chirp helps solve these challenges by enabling devices of all kinds, including
legacy equipment, to send and receive data using sound. Data-over-audio
provides a bridge, interconnecting generations of technology, old and new,
enabling the transmission of data between devices not possible using other
methods of connectivity. Using streams of audio chirps, equipment that was
previously isolated can now communicate with the plant’s network, technicians’
hand-held devices or even other equipment in M2M-style, delivering the
operational and productivity benefits of IIoT.

But this subject will be covered separately in more detail in a future blog in
a few months, with details about how Chirp solved age-old problems in these
sectors where even the global giants in the networking sector have been unable
to.

Visit us at Chirp.io