New Communications Product -Firechat

There’s a lot of buzz around the technology world at the moment around an exciting new communication product called FireChat.  This really is something new, not some repacked clone of an existing communication application or the same technology with a different interface.

FireChat is a chat tool that works on a local level, it is designed to allow communication on a much more localised level than something like Skype.  The really clever bit is that it doesn’t require Wifi or even a cellular signal to operate.  Basically as long as two devices (or more ) can connect to each other using some sort of protocol – typically Bluetooth or their wireless connections then they will be able to chat to each other.

It’s different on many levels but primarily because it operates on a completely different basis to normal mobile phone conversations.  Your smartphone is normally completely useless as a direct communication medium, it needs message relayed through another device – your operator or the internet for example.

Now obviously there are limitations, the most basic one is that you have to be in the rough vicinity of who you’re chatting with.  So is it still of much use?  I think so for instance imagine the number of subways that have no cellular coverage, trains and undergrounds are other places where you often won’t get a signal.  Ever sat in a big stadium waiting for a concert or sports match – often the cellular networks will be overwhelmed by the number of people in a small area.

FireChat doesn’t require a cellular network, it will also be useful for times when this is deliberately blocked.  How about somewhere like Iran or Turkey, where protesters can’t communicate because the government has blocked the cellular network.  There are ways and means to circumvent these by using fast proxies like this video demonstrates, but again they can all be potentially blocked.  Imagine some sort of disaster, maybe hurricanes knocked out the telephone towers or a Tsunami wiped out the network – FireChat would be invaluable in any of these situations.

But, and it’s a big BUT the system currently is very localised  – in fact the range is pretty much the same a normal sized room.   This obviously severely restricts the use of this technology to some extent.  However this could change very soon, as the company is working on developing this much further – their skills also exist in mesh networking technology.  This could potentially, extend the range exponentially by allowing devices to relay and pass messages on to other devices within range.  If this happens then the value of this application could increase greatly, but it’s still pretty neat in it’s current form and is completely free to use and download.

More technical information on  using proxies to bypass restrictions and filters can be found on this page, which specifically demonstrates how to watch British TV from abroad but the concept holds for other filters.