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Due to Covid-19 and the pandemic, there is a need to socially distance people and devices. Payments and verification typically require close contact with people and or devices. LISNR is a near ultrasonic low-power data transmission technology that enables the communication between devices.

Auto Futures talks to LISNR co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer Rodney Williams. He explains why LISNR data-over-audio is the ‘sweet spot’ for authentication for transport, contactless payments, rideshare, automotive and in the future concerts.

“The pandemic has caused an environment where contactless is more important than ever before. Think about consumers entering transportation, buses, rideshare and food delivery. How do we create a scenario where we can do what we used to do and extend up to six feet?” asks Williams.

To verify entry into mass transit currently, there are two options of QR code or NFC. Both are limited to a few centimetres. LISNR offers a wider distance and more controllable solution.


How Does LISNR Work 

The way LISNR works is that a device with a speaker makes a unique sound in the 18khz – 20khz -range. A microphone “hears” the sound and there is software in the background that identifies the sound and verifies the identity of the person holding the device.

Data over sound is not new. William gives the example of fax machines or even the first modems.

“Think of LISNR as a modem. We want to make it frictionless so you just need a microphone that can receive sound and at the frequency cannot be heard. It is totally secure with a ton of security and you can transmit it,” says Williams.

“The sweet spot where our technology has a unique advantage is the technology offers the ability for range control in an application. Bluetooth and other kinds of authentication are limited to hardware and are not as universal as you would like them to be,” says Williams. With LISNR you can limit or increase the range.

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Five years from now I expect that at least 50% of the population will be using authentication through LISNR.

There are many use cases for LISNR verification. Williams gives the example of LISNR integrated into a rideshare app. The user sees on the mobile app that the driver is approaching. The minute the door has opened the consumer and the driver are authenticated. LISNR works as a security tool. It verifies that both the driver and rider are correct.

LISNR can save rideshare companies costs such as customer service when someone has an issue with the ride, says Williams. “We call it proximity verification.” 

LISNR benefits are increased security, reduction of human error and decreases in fraud/chargebacks. The interactions become more efficient, increasing customer loyalty.

He notes that using LISNR can speed up the queues for entering buses. NFC or QR codes require a stop to register and read the code. With LISNR because the sound can be heard from further away from the riders, the line can be verified as they enter the bus.

In fact, LISNR recently announced a deal with BusUp, a corporate commuter bus and technology provider. LISNR tech doesn’t require an Internet connection and therefore can work in countries where Internet connections are limited.

There are many scenarios where LISNR can speed delivery and keep people at a social distance. Through a fast-food app, the driver enters the order. The customer is identified by receiving a sound at the drive-through microphone. The order is processed at the drive-through without contact except for handing over the order. LISNR can be used for touchless verification at a kiosk, curbside delivery, home package delivery, check-outs at airports, banks or anything that needs a person present, says Williams. LISNR has an agreement with Ticketmaster for ticketing for events.


LISNR also makes a device, called the LISNR Acceptance Device. It looks like a Google Home Mini, that can be plugged into a point-of-sale terminal if the customer does not have a microphone. It is USB powered and connects into the computer payment processing system.

For cars, LISNR can be used to identify the driver or personalisation of vehicle functions such as music or climate control. “Most cars have microphones if they have some kind of safety feature. LISNR can be used as a physical key,” says Williams.

LISNR doesn’t have the latency of sending and receiving cellular signals and is more secure because it registers the distance of the user, says Williams. For example, with Tesla, some thieves wait for Teslas to be unlocked by drivers from inside their homes. Then the thieves just get in the cars and drive them away before the owners get to the cars.

How Will LISNR Be Deployed in the Future?

Williams has big plans for the future of LISNR.

“Five years from now I expect that at least 50% of the population will be using authentication through LISNR. It could be as much as 90% but they may not know that they are using it,” says Williams, “Visa is one of our investors and LISNR will be a safe and secure checkout when they go shopping, go to a drive-through or go to an event.”

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