If you polled mobile pundits about what the next big thing was going to be, Near Field Communications (NFC) might take the top spot. The technology, which allows devices to exchange data with a quick touch, is theoretically going to change the way people pay for stuff. But it’ll only do that once most phones come with NGC technology built in–and today, only a handful of phones, such as Google and Samsung’s Nexus S and Nokia’s Astound, are ready to go.
That opens up a window of opportunity for a startup called Naratte. It’s created a technology called Zoosh that lets virtually any phone perform NFC-like tricks without needing to support NFC. Zoosh does that by using phones’ speakers and microphones to transmit data encoded in audio at ultrasonic frequencies. The company showed me several demos last week, including making PayPal-style payments by tapping two phones together and digital loyalty cards and coupons that could be redeemed by touching a phone to an inexpensive gizmo that hooks up to a retailer’s payment-processing terminal. (The coupon was in the form of a MMS message with video and embedded Zoosh audio–pretty clever.)