So perhaps this isn’t an app for the apocalypse, and more perhaps an app to be able to chat freely, off the grid. I don’t care. This is already downloaded, locked and loaded on my phone. Everyone I know has to get it, you know, just in case we don’t have reception and need to chat.
FireChat is a simple app that uses a little-known iOS feature that makes it easy to set up and run a network even when there is no cellular signal. That sounds a lot like what happened in Matthew Mathers book CyberStorm, where people created a mesh network on their phones and kept in touch through that when there was no reception.
But I digress. FireChat is a super simple app to use. To log in, enter a username and you’re set to go. You’ll enter a chat room for ‘Everyone’, which as its name implies is a public chat room and can understandably get noisy. But, if you want, you can switch to ‘Nearby’, which basically means anyone within Wi-Fi or Bluetooth range (or around 30 feet).
So what does this mean?
Well, for one, you can chat with complete strangers, quite reminiscent of ye old mIRC days and its intro greeting of “a/s/l?” You are also able to keep in contact with friends in places that don’t typically have cellular reception, like when camping or at Burning Man. And for those of you wannabe spies, this is a great way to chat with people completely off the grid.
The problem with that is of course there is no way to filter who you talk with, so when the app does pick up and get a lot of users one can imagine the noise that will go with it. I’m hoping that future updates of this app will come with the ability to create private chat rooms.
How does this work?
Instead of transmitting data through a cellular signal or through the Internet, the app actually creates it’s own mini-internet where each mobile device is its own node. This is possible now because of a new feature that arrived with iOS 7 called the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. Apps like FireChat are only the beginning of this technology. While it may not add much to the world right at this moment, just wait till the apocalypse hits! (I’m kidding… or am I?) At least it makes it harder for the NSA to spy on you!