What If Apple Pay Could Be Beaten By Soundwaves?

October 27, 2015         By: Steven Anderson

It’s the kind of question that might start a science fiction novel or an involuntary institutionalization hearing, but there’s word going around that it could be the case.

Essentially, the idea is that a speaker and an Internet connection together could be all that’s needed to make for some very secure mobile payments technology that can be accepted just about anywhere, and that’s a case that’s hard to pass up.

Personified by a new tool called Soundpays, the system allows for not only instant purchases, but also online shopping, viewing infomercials, and even potentially the ability to replace car insurance cards and even a driver’s license. The Soundpays system recently won a Best of Show award at FinovateFall 2015, and is already being called the Shazam of mobile payment.

The idea is that Soundpays can take each credit card, each driver’s license, each insurance card and convert it to an ultrasonic tone, a tone that couldn’t be heard by standard human hearing, but could readily be heard by most standard devices, including mobile devices, certain cell phones, and desktop PCs.

That means that businesses could put Soundpays technology to use immediately, without a need for new hardware, able to turn to basic off-the-shelf hardware instead.

Security is naturally a concern here—this is a new technology, after all—but Soundpays has some twists to help here. No payment information is stored on the devices in question, routing all these points through a secure website that uses IP addresses to match users with payment cards.

But that network essentially wipes itself out every 30 seconds, taking on a new slate of IP addresses, and forcing hackers to act within a window so narrow that it’s almost functionally impossible to hack.

Naturally, something like this could be very big. A mobile payment system that can be brought in using basic off-the-shelf hardware, that can be used by just about anyone, could be in every store everywhere literally by the end of the week. Meanwhile, Apple Pay requires a specific platform to work on specific platforms sufficient that agreements are necessary to use it.

That’s the kind of thing that could indeed give Apple a run for its money here, but the good news for Apple is that it likely has iPhone users well in hand. The idea that users would leave a native platform for any reason other than “I can’t use it in the store I want to use it in” is pretty outlandish.

Throw in the extensive ease of use coupled with the potential use in places where smartphones aren’t so readily available, like in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a whole new possible market Apple Pay can’t touch comes into play.

With the Soundpays app set to launch in a few weeks, we’ll likely find out before too much longer just how well it can do. The holiday shopping season isn’t all that far away either, and that could be one serious stress test for Soundpays.