FireChat lets Hong Kong protesters connect without cell or wifi networks

Local networking of smartphones is taking off in places where there are emergencies. Urgent need to co-ordinate actions, be it of protest or rescue. Latest entrant in this space is FireChat, an app that lets iOS and Android Phones connect and form a local network using bluetooth connectivity. The range isn’t great, but it works.

NPR has an article: How Hong Kong Protesters Are Connecting, Without Cell Or Wi-Fi Networks

Some quotes, but do read the whole article…

So far, mesh networks have proven themselves quite effective and quickly adopted during times of disaster or political unrest, as they don’t rely on existing cable and wireless networks. In Iraq, tens of thousands of people have downloaded FireChat as the government limits connectivity in an effort to curb ISIS communications. Protesters in Taiwan this spring turned to FireChat when cell signals were too weak and at times nonexistent.

And FireChat’s popularity is surging in Hong Kong. About 100,000 users downloaded the free FireChat app between Sunday morning and Monday morning…

“Once you build a mesh network … now you have a network that is resilient, self-healing, cannot be controlled by any central organization, cannot be shut down and is always working,” Christophe Daligault, Open Garden’s vice president for sales and marketing says. “I think that solves many other drawbacks or challenges of the mobile broadband Internet today.”

“Each [phone] becomes a router and in a sense you’re growing the Internet — everyone who joins the mesh network creates an extension of the Internet,” Daligault says. “In a year or two from now, I think people won’t even remember that you had to be on Wi-Fi or get a cell signal to be able to communicate.”

On the horizon

There is a related development on the horizon. The next generation mobile phone tech protocols will be upgraded to allow direct communication of cell phones with each other, using the principal radio to connect to other phones just like today it connects to the next tower. This will increase the range of direct communication to 500 meters or more…

Future Smartphones Won’t Need Cell Towers to Connect

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