A new iPhone application has launched that allows users to send information between devices via a burst of “digital birdsong”.
Known as Chirp, the app works by uploading data to a cloud server, and then transmitting the location of that data to another device via a short burst of sound called a ‘chirp’. A chirp consists of 20 tones, each representing a different character, and is designed to sound like birdsong.
When the receiving device picks up these tones, it is able to retrieve the location address of the data and begin downloading it from the server.
Unlike Bluetooth, there is no need to pair devices before sending a chirp – any phone within audio range will be able to pick up the information. This means that the sender could chirp multiple people at the same time.
The app has been developed by Animal Systems, a spin-off business from University College London (UCL). The company claims that data can be sent from anything that makes sound – including radios, TV’s, PA systems or even doorbells.
“While there isn't a lot of information in the actual sound, that information can also be used to open a web link, so that means that you could chirp someone a whole DVD or an album or a track with just a short piece of information,” said Patrick Bergel, CEO and Founder of Animal Systems.
“Because it's just a web link, the person who has chirped it can track it and then they can know how many people have received it and what they've used it for and if they've shared it with anyone else. So it's much more powerful to send links than to send just data peer-to-peer.”
Bergel said the company has spent a lot of time trying to make the application “sweet and discreet”. Chirp is designed to work at low volumes in noisy places like pubs, workplaces or busy streets, and to be reliable over short ranges.
The Chirp app currently supports sharing of photos, links and Twitter or Facebook contacts for iOS. An Android version of Chirp is now in development, and Animal Systems is also planning a desktop version of the app, which would allow users to chirp from any website to their device.
The company is also hoping to work with partners to begin chirping other types of data, such as tokens for gig tickets, discount vouchers for use in shops.