piece written on the 23rd March 2014 by  

In about 1995 I came across mIRC and this for me changed how I interacted online, more so than I thought would ever be possible. Over the decades I’ve changed communications platforms a number of times, from mIRC to MSN to GTalk to Skype to Whatsapp (I’m old, MXit never took for me). It has been incredible watching the changes, especially when I was working for a mobile voice over IP company. But, we haven’t had anything new for a while now, or have we?

Let me tell you about FireChat, this is quite an exciting one. FireChat has been described as a hyperlocal chat network for iOS that makes use of the Multipeer Connectivity Framework available in iOS7. So that’s super technical, what does that mean in English? The application uses WiFi, peer-to-peer and bluetooth connections to allow devices to interactive, but furthermore, the application uses a mesh network to basically allow devices to bounce through each other’s connections to thus increase the range. This means that if you’re within about 100ft of someone’s device, you could bounce through their connection to reach someone 100ft on the other side without an Internet connection!

I downloaded a copy of the application and right now you don’t need an account so it’s anonymous. There are two panels available to you, “Everyone” and “Nearby”. The Everyone area allows you to talk to anyone on the network (I managed to talk to a guy in Pretoria) and the Nearby allows you to talk to people in a much closer range. The application is incredibly straight forward as it stands now and it worth having a play with if you’ve got iOS7 running on your iDevice.

FireChat Screenshot

Firechat is available on the App Store.

This is a big move if you ask me, just imagine how a mesh network attached to this technology could extend network ranges into areas that would otherwise not have “reception” and you don’t even need an Internet connection to pull this off!

I think that FireChat could go incredibly far if they get good coverage and people are willing to give it a go. They’ll need to develop quickly to allow for one on one chat with people as at the moment it’s wide open and that won’t be enough to get people to stick around. The catch here is that they need those people to stick around in order to create the mesh network or the application will be a flop. Difficult situation to face as it almost seems like a Catch 22, but this technology is exciting and I hope the benefit is seen by people across the world.

One massive network coming up! ;)