A new device from Sonnet Labs promises to make it much easier for people to stay in communication with one another while traveling off the grid. The Toronto-based startup has announced a new lightweight and compact gadget that will give smartphone users the ability to send text messages, photos, and GPS coordinates even in places where a cellular network and internet access is completely nonexistent.
Dubbed the Sonnet, the new device uses long-range radio signals to create a peer-to-peer network that allows smartphone users to communicate directly with one another without the need for a cell network. The gadget connects to an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth and uses a special app to send messages, photos, and GPS information to other Sonnet users who are nearby.
The device reportedly has a range of about 1 mile when used within a city, although that distance climbs to as much as 6 miles when traveling in the backcountry where radio signals are less congested. Similar to the GoTenna Mesh, the gadget also uses mesh networking to theoretically extend that range indefinitely by automatically relaying messages off of other Sonnet devices in the area in order to reach a specific user who is farther away.
In addition to sending text messages, the Sonnet app will give user the ability to exchange voice recordings and share their exact location with others as well. The app comes with built-in maps that can be used offline and includes route tracking and planning, which comes in handy when navigating through remote areas. Users can also see their positions relative to one another at all times, making it easier to track down friends and family when separated.
The Sonnet is dust proof, water resistant, and reportedly comes equipped with a 4000 mAh battery that provides up to 36 hours of juice without a recharge. A built-in USB port gives the device the ability to share power with a smartphone in a pinch, although this will obviously cause the runtime to drop accordingly. The device features a clip that allows it to be attached it to a backpack or belt, and an emergency SOS button can be pressed to alert other users of trouble should the need arise.
Sonnet Labs has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help it raise $17,000 to crowdfund this device. If successful, it is expected to begin shipping in the fourth quarter of 2017, when it will retail for $45 for a single unit or $89 for a pair.