Open Garden’s Firechat was one of the first — if not the first — application to make use of Apple’s new multi-peer mesh networking capabilities. This enabled its users to anonymously chat with each other, even when there was no Internet connection available. Because Android doesn’t offer this feature, Open Garden then used its own networking tech to enable this same feature on Google’s operating system a few weeks later, but at the time, there was no way for Android and iOS phones to talk to each other.
With today’s update to Firechat — which the team decided to brand Firechat <3 — that’s changing. Android and iOS users can now chat on the same off-the-grid mesh network. This will make Firechat, which has seen some pretty nice growth since its launch, significantly more interesting.
The obvious question here is how the team managed to create a bridge between its own Android mesh network and Apple’s multi-peer technology. Sadly, that’s exactly what the team doesn’t want to talk about, except for saying that the service uses peer-to-peer Wi-Fi and the Bluetooth personal area network. Open Garden has developed quite a bit of in-house knowledge about mesh networking over the last two years, so if anybody could build this, it was probably this team.
Open Garden’s sales and marketing vice president Christophe Daligault was able to share that the team is working on an SDK that will soon bring its Firechat and Open Garden technology for third-party apps.
The idea here would be to give third-party apps a third on-ramp to the Internet in addition to Wi-Fi and the cellular network. So even when there is no network available, users may be able to either get online through other Open Garden users or connect to other users off-the-grid. It’s unclear how exactly the company will charge for this service, but Daligault tells me it will likely price the events that come through the SDK.