Following the release of iOS 7, a new technology was made available. It’s known as the Multipeer Connectivity Framework, but until now, little fuss has been made. However, a new app has hit the App Store, and it’s impact could be huge.
Called FireChat, and developed by Open Garden, the app allows users to chat and share files or photos over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth within about a 30 meter range without an internet connection by creating a localized network in which each device becomes a node in the same way as AirDrop works. This is pretty great in itself, but in addition to that, it also allows users to connect when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are far out of range.
Wireless mesh networking
So how does it do this? Well, it’s relatively simple (kind of). The technique has been labelled wireless mesh networking and it essentially provides an internet connection when none exists, such as underground, or in a rural area with no masts.
If multiple users are in the area, FireChat can use them to springboard between users and a connection, using the phones as nodes to send files over longer distances.
The best thing is the almost endless possibilities of the technology. It can potentially have huge, even revolutionary impact on the world.
For example, in a country where internet is perhaps limited, due to poor infrastructure, citizens can still communicate. The best thing is, they can’t be hacked over an internet connection either – which could be a concern for citizens in an internet-censored country – because the users aren’t on an internet connection.
A little closer to home, and in the case of a disaster where masts could be knocked out, or in an over-crowded area where signal is over-subscribed, people can still communicate. Essentially, the technology has the potential to save lives. Pretty cool, right?
So far, the app has been met largely with indifference, which have tended to translate to negative reviews in the App Store. The thing with FireChat though, is that it won’t fully come in to its own until it reaches critical mass and there are enough people using it.
FireChat is the first of its kind, when it comes to the chat focus in particular – and Apple has plenty to do with building the platform to allow it to break through on the App Store. It’s not yet gone mainstream, but Apple has given it a big helping hand on its way to being big and transforming message in the same way that WhatsApp managed to a few years ago.
We bet those behind the acquisition at Facebook don’t feel so progressive now…