Open Garden’s FireChat app made it possible for iPhone users to message each other, when nearby, without a cellular connection or Wi-Fi. Now, the app works with Android, too. So if you ever find yourself, say, at a music festival in the desert without Internet, you can still message away with anyone else in the area.
The new cross-platform chatting, available as of today, comes with the latest release of the app, called FireChat <3 (“FireChat love”).
FireChat uses a technology called “mesh networking,” an approach that creates peer-to-peer communication between devices instead of connecting through Wi-Fi or an Internet data plan. The iOS app uses iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework, meaning that iOS 7 devices “[use] infrastructure Wi-Fi networks, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth personal area networks and subsequently [communicate] with those services by sending message-based data, streaming data, and resources (such as files),” according to Apple’s developer site.
“The ability to use two transport layers is just more reliable,” Open Garden chief marketing officer Christophe Daligault told VentureBeat about doubling up on Bluetooth and peer-to-peer Wi-Fi.
The Android app uses Open Garden’s own mesh networking technology as it has no support for Bluetooth peripheral mode.
Making the app cross-platform “was a tough nut to crack,” said Daligault. He declined, however, to reveal how exactly the company achieved the milestone.
And while mesh networking has a range limit of about 200 feet, users can daisy-chain devices, up to 10,000 of them, to create an extensive peer-to-peer network. Daligaut said that this would result in a little bit of latency, but since the chat app is primarily sending text, he claims it’s not really noticeable.
Daisy-chaining like this also means that the participating devices can have their own group chat room within the FireChat app, a feature the company launched last month.
This is especially useful in low Internet connectivity situations such as music festivals, in the subway, and so on, where groups of people want to communicate.
Open Garden is an organization focused on net neutrality and is developing the Open Garden Mesh protocol that optimizes communication between wireless devices and access to the Internet.