Tony Fadell-backed Keyssa’s new wireless tech will link smartphones with a “kiss”

For the last 16 months a Silicon Valley startup called Keyssa has been shopping a new kind of wireless technology to smartphone and other consumer device makers. Considering the average smartphone is already chock-full of radios, you would think the last thing a device maker wants to do is add another, but Keyssa claims its tech does something special. By simply tapping two smartphones together Keyssa can transfer an HD movie between devices in mere seconds.

Nest's Tony Fadell at GigaOM RoadMap

Tony Fadell

Keyssa calls its wireless transfer technology Kiss, and it’s attracted the interest of some pretty significant players in the consumer electronics and tech industry. Keyssa has raised $47 million in total including strategic investments from Intel and Samsung. But perhaps most significantly, it’s caught the close attention of Tony Fadell, the father of the iPod and founder of Nest Labs. Fadell, who is speaking at Gigaom’s Roadmap conference next Wednesday, has been advising Keyssa (then called WaveConnex) on its product strategy since 2011 and he became chairman in early 2013.

Wireless transfer between devices is nothing new. Before we even had the smartphone, we had infrared, for example. Bluetooth has long paired our smartphones and peripherals. And near-field communications (NFC) is powering the emerging smartphone contactless payments market. But all of those technologies have big limits in the bandwidth.

What Keyssa is promising is a wireless technology that replaces the data cord and connector port, head of product Mariel van Tatenhove told me in a phone interview on Thursday. Kiss doesn’t replace the file transfer standards like USB 3.0, PCI Express or Serial ATA we use in computing today, it just reproduces them over a very short range wireless connection generated by low-power bean-sized transmitters in the sending and receiving devices. Depending on the transfer protocol used, Kiss can support up 6 Gbps speeds, van Tatenhove said.

Mariel van Tatenhove

Mariel van Tatenhove

Kiss uses the 60 GHz band, the same spectrum used by WiGig and Wireless HD, which also promise multi-gigabit connections. But those standards are intended to be local area networking technologies that maintain constant high-capacity connections between devices in the same room. Kiss is a point-to-point to technology, designed to link two devices spaced just a few millimeters apart for just an instance so they can transfer their payloads and disconnect.

That type of peer-to-peer close range link may seem limiting, but then again Keyssa is hinting at a different kind of use case where close proximity makes sense. We’re talking about moving whole movies or transferring the contents of entire hard drives from one device to another. That type of transfer would imply some kind of direct action from the user. By tapping one Kiss-enabled device to another, not only is there no need to fiddle with cords and ports, but the transfer is inherently more secure, van Tatenhove said.

We’ll see if that’s logic that the device makers will ultimately buy. There are no shortage of superfast wireless technologies in the market – even Wi-Fi is starting to reach for gigabit speeds – and while Keyssa is definitely designed to be used differently than, say, WiGig, one more radio is still one more radio.

The mobile industry is also heavily standards driven, where multiple suppliers provide the core technology to multiple device makers. Keyssa has produced a distinctly proprietary technology, and so far hasn’t announced any plans to license it. Van Tatenhove said Keyssa does have eventual plans to build a larger Kiss ecosystem but didn’t go into any further detail.

Keyssa, however, says it already has customers on the hook along with important backers such as [company]Samsung[/company] and [company]Intel[/company]. It’s already working with several major device makers, van Tatenhove said, though she wouldn’t reveal specific companies for confidentiality reasons. The startup expects to ship its first hardware in the first half of 2015, and the first Kiss-embedded gadgets will make their way on to shelves in the second half of the year.

Fadell photo courtesy of Pinar Ozger (c) 2011 GigaOM. Other images courtesy of Keyssa.