The Hong Kong streets are currently filled with protesters fighting for the right to democracy. But with mobile networks failing how can they communicate their efforts? Using FireChat.
FireChat is a San Francisco made peer-to-peer "mesh networking" service. It negates the need for a network connection on your phone, meaning it will work anywhere.
FireChat uses the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on your mobile to let it communicate with other devices directly. A bit like Wi-Fi direct for sending a file it will share information with another phone without needing to go via a router or network. It has a range of roughly 70 metres but uses other mobiles like stepping stones allowing it to grow to the edge of any crowd.
One of the best parts about FireChat is that as more people use it in an area, connectivity actually increases. Over 100,000 people have downloaded FireChat over the weekend. In fact at one time over 33,000 people were using the app and it was working smoothly, according to the Independent.
Chat rooms can be created to hold groups allowing chat and sharing among many users at once. Ideal for organising protests then.
What does it work with?
As long as you're near to others with the app up and running you can chat directly and even share links, images and videos as if you were using WhatsApp.
While Bluetooth is a slow way of transferring data it's a good way to connect devices. Then with that stable connection made the Wi-Fi is ideal for sending larger items like files, photos and even videos.
Where does it get used?
FireChat has also been used by Iraqis and Taiwanese students during their anti-Beijing Sunflow Movement.
It's almost like Twitter in that it can offer free speech that can't be controlled by the government. But where Twitter has been shut down by governments in the past, FireChat can't be.
Of course there are military grade devices that can shut off all signals in an area but that's an extreme case of where FireChat could get shut down.
What's in the future of FireChat?
We can imagine local based connectivity will really take off. Imagine Tinder that works directly, connecting to other users in the vicinity? It would be like a more personal bubble for online dating.
FireChat could even be used as an easier way to share files with friends, much in the way many do with WhatsApp, but without the need to slowly upload via a network or router, it can simply transfer directly.
FireChat is available now on iPhone and Android for free.