Here's a basic FireChat scenario: Let's say you held a conference in a small hotel where the basement-level conference rooms didn't have mobile broadband connectivity or Wi-Fi. If all of the attendees used FireChat, everyone would be able to get an Internet connection, even those in the basement. The devices of people mingling in the lobby would link directly to the devices of attendees on the stairs and in the elevators, forming chains of connectivity down into the ballrooms and hallways below. Note that FireChat is designed to extend the reach of the Internet, and requires at least one device in the chain to be online.
An alternative to FireChat, an iOS app called HelloChat, is designed to function without any Internet connectivity at all. The network is local only, and it's useful for forming ad-hoc networks when connecting to the Internet is not an option.
To be very clear, neither FireChat nor HelloChat create connectivity generally. They just make it possible to use messaging or chat tools in Internet dead zones.
Wireless mesh networking has existed for years. But Apple's Multipeer Connectivity Framework is bringing it into the mainstream because it's built in as a core feature of a major consumer operating system.
It's clear that the mobile industry has finally given up on the fantasy that an Internet connection is available to all users at all times. Reality has set in. And in the past month, we've seen a new wave of products and services that help us go offline and still function.
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