Everybody reading this will probably have gone through the same experience at one point: you’re at a packed festival with thousands and thousands of visitors. After returning from the bar with a couple of drinks or a quick stop at the toilets, you can’t find your friends at the overcrowded stage anymore. Calling or texting is not an option since the reception is next to zero. What now? Well the people at Open Garden might just have the solution for you.
Created by San Francisco startup Open Garden, the FireChat app allows users to talk to one another without having cellular service or Internet connection. This is possible thanks to FireChat’s ability to create an off-the-grid connection among nearby mobile devices. The app creates a “mesh network” in which one phone latches to another, that then latches to other devices nearby, and so on, using the phones’ Bluetooth and wireless technologies.
There are two ways to use the app: in the “Everyone” mode, each user is thrown into a virtual room where they can see what everyone who is in the app is saying, much like a chatroom from the days of AOL Instant Messenger.
The other mode — the one users at festivals will want to access — is called “Nearby.” This part of FireChat connects users who are in close proximity to one another through the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities of their devices. For example, one user could reach his friend on the other side of the festival terrain if they both log into the “Nearby” portion of FireChat. If there are enough users between them who are also using FireChat, the two friends may be able to connect and coordinate a rendezvous.
FireChat’s developers envision the app one day being used at sporting events, conferences, on airplanes and in parts of the world where Internet and cellular connectivity are not reliable. “This is what the app was designed for,” Open Garden’s Christophe Daligault said. “Places where you have a lot of people and connectivity sucks.”
FireChat has been launched for Apple iOS devices and Android.