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On Wednesday, FireChat, a text messaging app very dear to geeks and connoisseurs, got a major update that now allows users to send messages privately without the need of a working internet connection or a mobile network.
Sending messages in crowded areas can be a pretty daunting task when mobile networks get overloaded due to the intense traffic. Moreover, when hiking or mountain biking you can see that your GSM signal vanishes for hours. So, sending a message to a nearby friend is often impossible.
That’s the exact problem FireChat wants to solve. The app employs mesh networking, a fairly recent method of communicating between devices that allows smartphone users text one another via their headsets’ Wi-Fi and Bluetooth systems.
You don’t need an internet connection or a mobile network to do that. Open Garden, the start-up which designed the app, initially allowed FireChat users to communicate via chat rooms, with no possibility of sending private messages to a member.
But with the new update, rolled out July 29, users can now engage in private messaging, as well. Developers explained that text messages are transmitted through the phone’s Wi-Fi or Bluetooth antennas to another device that has the app installed on it. The range between the two phones cannot be larger than 200 feet, or 60 meters.
The phone acts like a relay and stores the message until it reaches its destination. Also, the app uses encryption technology, but developers declined to say what type. Yet there’s a drawback – the message may require several minutes to be transmitted especially in highly populated locations by FireChat users. For instance, in a highly populated urban area where five percent of residents are using the app, which is very unlikely, it takes 10 to 20 minutes for the text to be delivered.
Such app may be very handy to large groups of people in various situations. For instance, if you travel abroad you can dodge the excessive roaming costs when you only want to use the phone to locate a nearby friend or family member. Also, on a plane two passengers located on opposite ends of the plane can chat without the need to enroll into a Gogo Internet plan.
“We end up having a network that’s comparable to any mobile carrier’s. It’s a completely new form of routing,”
noted Micha Benoliel, Open Garden’s CEO.
The app can also be useful for protesters in undemocratic regimes that want to communicate when governments scramble mobile networks.
Image Source: Adevarul