Verizon files patent for ultrasonic frequency-based messaging

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) may be working on a device that could pick up on ultrasonic frequencies and digitally translate them into messages.

According to a patent filed by the company, the technology would be "a low-power always listening, digital signal processor," ready to pick up ultrasonic frequency information at any time from a multitude of sources.

In the filing, the company implied that the ultrasonic messages might act as "push notifications" that don't require any action on the part of the user, combatting an existing problem on smart phones and other devices.

"Unfortunately, despite the large number of services, features, and applications now available on such devices, usage is often limited by the difficulty in accessing or activating the service, feature, or application," the document said. "In some instances, it has been determined that adding a single user action (e.g., a click, button press, swipe, etc.) to a process required to access a feature or perform a function, decreases usage of the feature by up to 50 percent."

The patent is not limited to cell phones, though it does expressly include the description of a device that functions as a smartphone does. Instead, it could also function via computers, GPS devices, portable gaming systems and more.

The patent includes suggestions for a variety of potential uses, including interactivity with television shows and movies through an ultrasonic frequency-induced "second screen" app that would activate in real time. According to the filing, other potential uses could include AM/FM radio advertising, rewards for time spent logged in to websites and location-based advertising.

With such a multitude of possible frequency signals to sift through, the patent also touched on the possibility of "noise cancellation and/or error correction logic to ensure and/or verify that the ultrasonic messages are accurately received and recognized."

A Verizon representative declined to give any information on the significance of the patent, saying the company does not typically comment on filings. Indeed, tech companies often file patents for ideas that never come to fruition, though Verizon's appears to be the first in the arena of ultrasonic frequency messaging.

A vaguely similar technology debuted last year when Quietnet, a company that offers an open Python program, revealed near-ultrasonic messaging that sent encoded text messages between nearby computers. If Verizon moves forward with its patent, it may want to adopt Quietnet's warning: "May annoy some animals."

For more:
- see Verizon's patent application

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