It’s ironic that sometimes when it’s most important to communicate, it can be nearly impossible to do so. Disasters or other emergency situations can cause lines to be damaged or congested with millions of people trying to communicate with family and friends. If only we could receive messages even when there is no cellular or internet connection.
That’s now possible with a new app that allows rescue workers to send emergency alerts to offline smartphones. FireChat Alerts, from Open Garden, uses peer-to-peer mobile mesh networking technology to ensure everyone receives all alerts.
An estimated 200 million people are affected by natural disasters or humanitarian crises each year, so it’s vital that communications reach everyone. Recently, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report, “Honoring our commitment to leave no one behind requires reaching everyone in situations of conflict, disaster, vulnerability, and risk.”
FireChat Alerts will be used by governmental organizations, media, and other emergency-related groups to broadcast alerts to mobile devices within a specific geographical area. Consumers will only use the FireChat app (Android, iOS), a separate app that was launched in 2014 by Open Garden so that family and friends can communicate via instant messages without a data connection. It’s perfect for underground transportation and cruise ships, and now with the launch of FireChat Alerts, it’s the perfect app to receive these emergency messages.
Once an alert is sent via FireChat Alerts, smartphones in the area with the FireChat app will receive the message and forward it to other phones nearby, usually within about 200 feet of each other. This is known as peer-to-peer networking since the devices don’t need to have a cellular or internet connection and can connect with each other instead.
FireChat Alerts can be used for not only early warning, emergency, and health advisories, but for weather and traffic information as well.
Peer-to-peer technology isn’t new to Open Garden. Other than the FireChat app, the company launched the Open Garden app (Android) in 2012 for peer-to-peer internet sharing.
Open Garden will showcase FireChat Alerts at the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016. It’s already in beta on iOS for select organizations and it’s coming soon to Android. A Windows version isn’t planned.
One thing to keep in mind is that the FireChat app (Android, iOS) must be installed on your phone in order to ensure that you receive emergency alerts. It’s unclear when FireChat Alerts will go live, but it’s better to go ahead and download the FireChat app now, rather than forget about it later.
You can visit the Open Garden website for more information.
Updated on 05-20-16 by Robert Nazarian: Clarified that the FireChat Alerts app is only for sending alerts (not for consumer use) and users only need the FireChat app to receive alerts.