10 Updates

FireChat ignites new way to communicate on phones

Apr 3 2014, 11:42am CDT | by

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A new mobile messaging application called FireChat is empowering nearby smartphone users to stay in touch even when there's no cellular service or Internet...

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16 weeks ago

FireChat ignites new way to communicate on phones

Apr 3 2014, 11:42am CDT | by

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A new mobile messaging application called FireChat is empowering nearby smartphone users to stay in touch even when there's no cellular service or Internet connection.

In just two weeks since its release on the iPhone, FireChat already has provided a flicker of hope for people pining for more effective, secure and affordable ways to communicate. That's because the free messaging app harnesses a technology called wireless mesh networking, which might someday allow a myriad of devices to connect like links in a chain.

The technique might someday be used to tie together thousands of devices with built-in radios and make it possible to be online without having to pay for the access. It could also enable online communications in remote areas or disaster zones without Wi-Fi or cellular signals. Furthermore, the conversations in these so-called "off-the-grid" networks can't be easily hacked into by spies and mischief makers or shut down by governments trying to stifle free speech.

"We trying to create networks built by the people for the people," said Micha Benoliel, CEO of Open Garden, maker of the FireChat app.

Open Garden, a San Francisco startup with just 10 employees, is taking another step toward its ambitious goal with Thursday's release of a FireChat app for Android phones.

FireChat could be an even hotter commodity on Android given the demographic differences between that platform's user base and the typical iPhone owner. The app already has been installed on more than 1 million iOS devices.

Many smartphones running on Google Inc.'s free Android software are cheaper than Apple Inc.'s iPhone. That has made Android phones the top-selling mobile devices in less affluent countries, including in regions where Internet access is inadequate or expensive.

Google is among the big Internet companies intrigued with mesh networking's potential to bring more of the world online.

Sundar Pichai, Google's executive in charge of Android, has touted mesh networks as a way to connect wearable computers, such as the company's Glass eyewear. Mesh networks also could be used to bring a wide variety of everyday appliances online, helping to build an Internet of things instead of just websites.

FireChat's reach so far is limited. When connecting off the grid, iPhone app users have only been able to send text and photos to other FireChat users within a range of 30 to 100 feet.

Later this year, Open Garden plans to upgrade FireChat's iPhone app so off-the-grid users will be able to hopscotch through a daisy chain of devices to extend the reach of a local network. If this works, a FireChat user sitting in the right-field bleachers of a baseball game would be able to text with a friend on the other side of the stadium if enough other iPhone users in the ballpark also are on FireChat.

This extended range will be available immediately on FireChat's Android app because Open Garden released a mesh networking app for that operating system nearly two years ago.

FireChat's iPhone app piggybacks on an often overlooked feature called the Multipeer Connectivity Framework that Apple Inc. included in its latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, released last September. Apple says more than 80 percent of people using its mobile devices rely on iOS 7.

For now, Android phones and iPhones with the FireChat app won't be able to engage in off-the-grid conversation. Open Garden, though, believes it will eventually be able to make mesh networking work on phones running on different operating systems.

As the mesh networking software improved, Benoliel realized Open Garden needed to come up with application to demonstrate what the technology could do. In that practical sense, FireChat is similar to the word processing and spreadsheet programs that Microsoft released decades ago to help broaden the appeal of its Windows operating system for personal computers, said Christophe Daligault, Open Garden's marketing chief.

FireChat's development was driven by the popularity of other mobile messaging apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp that enabled smartphone users to text and send pictures to their friends and family without having to pay smartphone carriers.

Like texts and photos sent on Snapchat, nothing transmitted through FireChat is saved. All content evaporates once the app is closed. FireChat also allows all its users to remain anonymous, another feature that is becoming popular on a variety of mobile messaging apps, such as Wickr and Rumr.

There still aren't enough people using FireChat to ensure users will find someone nearby to message. To pique people's interest in the app, FireChat offers an "everyone" option that allows users to enter a digital chat room with up to 80 other random users located in the same country. This option requires a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

Dailigault concedes FireChat's chat room isn't as high-minded as mesh networking.

"We are finding a lot of people are using it when they are just looking for something to do for a few minutes," Dailigault said. "Some of the discussions there are turning out to be more interesting than anything they can find on Facebook."

 
Update
10

7 weeks ago

RM47mil KWSG contributions still unclaimed

Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat was tol ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
9

7 weeks ago

Gold shop lost almost RM1mil

Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KANGAR: A gold shop owner lost almost RM1 million after after the safe on in his shop was bro ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
8

7 weeks ago

Motion to debate MAS losses in Dewan Rakyat rejected

Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was reject ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
7

7 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

7 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed s ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an allocation of RM20 mi ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Bazaar ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara Damansara Skyway (Kidex) t ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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