Wireless Mesh Networking: The iOS 7 Feature that Will Change the World

Pardon our enthusiasm, but there is one feature of the iOS 7 that we believe has the potential to change the world, one Internet connection at a time. You see, in the latest version of its mobile operating system, Apple has implemented a feature called Wireless Mesh Networking, which had been present in other versions, as well as other Apple releases. Only, if up to the iOS 7 it had gone by largely unnoticed, there are odds that this may all change with the latest OS release. Read on, to get a better picture of why we think this may be the case.

Its official name in the iOS 7 release from Apple is ‘the Multipeer Connectivity Framework’. To simplify things as much as possible, it allows one user to chat or share files with another, no matter how far removed they are from one another in space and – this is the best part yet – neither one of the users needs to be directly connected to the Internet, either via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or 3G/4G. How does this work? As the name ‘wireless mesh networking’ suggests, it works by creating a virtually endless link of peers, until it reaches a stable Internet connection. It doesn’t matter how far this connection is either; the feature puts to work the iPhone’s/iPad’s Bluetooth and flexible Wi-Fi functions. It literally creates an Internet connection where there isn’t any.

Case studies: The FireChat app and AirDrop

Recently, an app for instant messaging called FireChat hit Apple’s App Store and, though it went largely unnoticed by mainstream users, there’s definitely a bit of a buzz a-stir in the world of Mac geeks. As you may have already guessed, this app makes use of wireless mesh networking – as does Apple’s own AirDrop feature. FireChat was developed and released by Open Garden, a provider of connectivity services that crowdsources its releases, and it is their very first release for iOS. Like the AirDrop, it can create a limitless chain-linked Internet connection and bring online access to otherwise remote places.

As Cult of Mac recently reported on this feature, it’s incredibly easy to use, too. All it requires is that several users connect to either AirDrop, or FireChat, or any other app that makes use of the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. In the long run, this stands to change the world in several ways:

–          It can bring Internet access to poor countries, where people can afford phones (perhaps even cheap or second-hand smartphones), but where Wi-Fi access is still far too expensive for them;

–          It can significantly improve response times and communication in disaster areas or scenarios. Think of an earthquake, storm, or any other similarly tragic context, in which cell phone towers are taken out of order. Without them, there is no mobile broadband or Wi-Fi access to speak of; however, by creating a peer-to-peer mesh of connectivity, this all changes dramatically;

–          It can also improve safety concerns for parents, who allow their young children to use iPod Touch or iPhone devices. With them constantly connected to the Internet, the parents could set their minds at ease.

FireChat also offers geolocation services and, to boot, it can be used anonymously – which is a great plus for users concerned with their privacy. It’s next to impossible to identify a user and, hence, to hack the app remotely. While this may pose an issue to some, it is obviously a very useful thing for repressive countries, where communication and online access are limited.

To conclude, while we’ve extolled the virtues of the iOS 7 before, this feature is truly groundbreaking and could alter the way we understand communication forever. What do you think about it?

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