Per Vices seeks to disrupt wireless communications

Consider this radical idea. Rather than have a variety of devices—such as cell phones, TV sets or radios—each pick up individual signals for a particular application, why not allow a single device pick up all the signals at once and mix, match and manipulate them in a number of ways.

That single device would allow custom software applications to re-direct and use those wireless transmissions as the recipient likes. It potentially would also act as a base station that would allow the re-routing of the signals to a myriad of other devices. And it could facilitate tasks like making free calls from a mobile phone or sending off-air HDTV transmissions to a portable tablet for viewing in the field.

This is not science fiction. A company called Per Vices said it has done just that with a new PCI card-based product called Phi. (The company’s founders, Victor Wollesen and Yi Yao, are a physicist and an electrical engineer that used to work in the defense industry.) It’s based on the concept of a single device capturing all wireless signals from the air and is essentially a transceiver that can demodulate and process signal data up to 4 Gigahertz. (See video)

One of Per Vices’ “receivers” can set up a decentralized wireless network where mobile devices and desktops are sending communications to each other instead of one where all mobile phones have to send and receive signals from carrier-operated cell phone towers.

So far, Per Vices is focusing on the hacker and hobbyist market with a PCI card (a software defined radio) that supports only Linux computers. The company’s stated longer-term goal is to build something that’s both accessible and affordable to the mainstream market.

On their website, Phi retails for $666 for just the card or $750 with antennas. In one demo, users you can pick-up HDTV transmissions and route those signals to a mobile device.

Per Vices is hoping that hackers will find even more interesting ways of using Phi, similar to how some developers figured out how to subvert Microsoft’s Kinect.