Sonorax: The Future Sound of Mobile Payments?

February 25, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Developments in the mobile payments space have been flying hard and fast for years now, and we’ve seen some truly amazing things emerge in that time. One of the oddest new developments has been sound-based mobile payments, and while we’ve seen several firms try this over the years, Sonorax may yet prove to be the closest to making a sound-based mobile payments system.

Sonorax’s system depends on a sound that operates at a frequency beyond human hearing, and when it’s activated, can be detected by a separate device, which then receives it like a command and carries out its function. Here, that function is to engage in a mobile payment. The system requires no special hardware, reports note, and it can actually be a part of other audio channels, like television.

The earliest tests of the Sonorax system are set to take place at the ATM, reports note, with the system effectively sending out its sonic pulse to the ATM to get it to give up currency from a connected account. Future tests of the Sonorax system will include authentication systems and indoor positioning.

This isn’t the first such system to step into this sound-based arena. LISNR out of Cincinnati got in this field back in 2017, when Ticketmaster was using its technology to process event tickets on mobile devices. Moreover, RideYellow, a taxi firm, got in on the action thanks to a connection with Equinox Payments, who integrated LISNR technology into its own systems.

I’m reminded here of infamous phone hacker—rather, phone phreak—Captain Crunch, who noted that he could get free long distance calls on AT&T lines thanks to a special tone created from a plastic whistle found in boxes of his namesake cereal. While it’s a safe bet that this system is specifically hardened against such hacking, you never known when someone else might run some kind of pitch-shifting software to generate a tone that jackpots said ATM, causing it to spit out its contents in a thoroughly illegal fashion.

Still, the idea is a good one, and with a little testing, it may not be a problem at all. If nothing else, it’s one more idea to toss into the mix and see which one survives the most rigorous test of all: contact with the customer.