OPEN GARDEN: THE INTERNET OF US

The next revolution will not conspire in a dingy tavern. The jury’s out on whether or not the next revolution will be televised. More than likely though, the next mass protest will be orchestrated via text message.

Open Garden is an innovative little tech firm based in San Francisco that are tinkering with our very preconceived notions of the internet.

Their flagship product FireChat is a mobile application that allows you to communicate without access to the internet or a mobile network.

FireChat uses the radio inside your phone to connect directly with adjoining phones within a 210 foot radius, otherwise known as an off-the-grid mesh network. The more devices that are connected to the network, the larger the web gets. This makes it easy to build ad hoc networks to get the buzz going at conventions and music festivals like Burning Man and SXSW. But perhaps where FireChat has the most impact are in isolated areas where internet is limited, such as the tropical paradise of Tahiti, or situations in which conversations are being heavily monitored, such as the pro-democracy protests in Honk Kong.

Open Garden was founded by a group of renegade technologists, and ex-engineers of the file-sharing tool BitTorrent. CEO Micha Benoliel was instrumental in creating telecommunications mainstay Skype. The company has been backed by a handful of high-profile investors, including Mark Cuban. In total their investment capital amounts to over $12.8 million.

So you’re the one at the party that likes to share. You know who you are. Give yourself a pat on the back and keep doing you. Now you can share your internet access with outsiders as well. FireChat lets you dictate how much data you are willing to share, and with whom you are sharing it with.

For the most part accessing this app is fairly simple, just find it at the App Store or Google Play and download.

Next it’s time to create a profile: pick a username, add a photo and a short bio, you know the drill. Don’t fret too much over this step–you have the option of keeping your identity anonymous when you join a network. Once you’re up and running it’s time to join a chatroom. Like Twitter and Instagram, FireChat utilizes hashtags to denote various chatroom categories (#AtypicalBeasts). This also makes it a lot easier to share your chatroom or a chatroom you’re participating in with friends online.

Lastly, a few additional features to keep in mind. You can block nuisances or creeps. You can also disperse photos. You can even send private messages if you don’t want to engage the entire surround community into your conversation. it’s a simple tool with a lot of flexibility.

Open Garden has already inspired a host of new internet services. An emerging market abound with buzz on the blogosphere these days is the so-called Internet of Things, commonplace items like light bulbs and thermostats that will soon be part of our internet ecosystem. These items might run more efficiently and more cost-effectively if they could periodically key into a network emitted from a nearby device rather than have to constantly be connected to WiFi.

Another area of interest are emerging markets, such as Africa. Off-the-grid networks could be particularly useful in markets where cellular coverage and internet access is scarce, or where it might be more economical to share a single cellular service. Open Garden wants to help connect the next 1 billion devices to the internet and are actively seeking partners to help them deploy their FireChat MeshKits.

Open Garden is certainly proving to be a force in the telecommunications game and it seems the possibilities are endless.