How an Underappreciated iOS 7 Feature Will Change the World



A curious download hit Apple’s App Store this week: a messaging app called FireChat.

It’s a new kind of app because it uses an iOS feature unavailable until version 7: the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. The app was developed by the crowdsourced connectivity provider Open Garden and this is their first iOS app.

The Multipeer Connectivity Framework enables users to flexibly use WiFi and Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections to chat and share photos even without an Internet connection. Big deal, right?

But here’s the really big deal — it can enable two users to chat not only without an Internet connection, but also when they are far beyond WiFi and Bluetooth range from each other — connected with a chain of peer-to-peer users between one user and a far-away Internet connection.

It’s called wireless mesh networking. And Apple has mainstreamed it in iOS 7. It’s going to change everything. Here’s why. 

It can also extend an Internet connect to a place where none exists — for example, to a hotel basement, cave or to rural areas where cell tower connections are non-existent.

It does that through the mesh networking capability inherent in the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. With multiple users in the area, FireChat can relay messages just like the internet does, from node to node (phone to phone).

(Apple’s AirDrop works in the same way, by the way.)

Here’s an example. There’s an ultramarathon that takes place in California each year on a trail called Skyline-to-the-Sea. It’s a roughly 30 mile trail through giant redwood forests where there is no cell connectivity. Using FireChat or some other app that uses iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework, race volunteers, staff and participants could extend Internet connectivity and communication in an ad hoc mesh network that extends the length of the course.

The benefit of such an ad-hoc network is how trivially easy it is to set up. Everybody just use FireChat or AirDrop or any other similar app. Boom! Connectivity for everyone.

You can imagine the uses in a disaster area where cell towers have been knocked out, or other situations where people need to communicate but where no WiFi or mobile broadband is available.

In many poor countries and areas, people might be able to afford cheap or used phones, but not wireless service fees. Wireless mesh networks can provide free Internet connectivity to entire villages, slums or towns.

And, of course, Multipeer Connectivity Framework-based mesh-networking apps like FireChat can become a factor for young people. For example, parents who have given their kids iPod Touch devices can chat with the family using FireChat without connecting to the Internet.

And teens who get in trouble with their parents and have their phone contracts cancelled or suspended can still chat with friends with their iPhones using FireChat (with the neighbor kid’s help).

Because FireChat can be used anonymously, it could be very secure. Not only is it hard or impossible to determine who the anonymous users are, it can’t even be hacked remotely over the Internet if no Internet connectivity is being used. This application and the services in iOS 7 that make it possible seem ideal for communication in repressive, Internet censoring countries.

The big picture here, though, which the public hasn’t understood at all (because apps like FireChat are so new) is that mesh networking is about to go mainstream for consumer use.

Note that Open Garden, the creator of FireChat, already offers wireless mesh networking on Android, but not in the form of a chat app — it’s just the networking.

Apple is a leader here with its Multipeer Connectivity Framework. But it appears that Google is also going big with consumer-level mesh networking also.

Google’s senior VP Sundar Pichai was interviewed at SXSW recently, and mentioned mesh networking twice in the context of wearable devices (such as those that support Google’s more recently announced Android Wear initiative, and also in the context of home automation.

With Apple and Google building in the foundations for app developers to easily create ad-hoc wireless mesh networks wherever they go, it’s only a matter of time before the wonders and power of mesh networking hits the public in a big way.

Think of wireless mesh networking as giving app developers the ability to create tiny, private or public Internets that are limited in time and place. It will have a somewhat similar impact as the Internet itself in how it undermines authority control over communication.

Ubiquitous wireless mesh networking could erase many of the places and situations where connectivity isn’t possible, or connectivity over the Internet isn’t desirable.

Kudos to Apple for building this into iOS 7. It’s the first major mainstream implementation of wireless mesh networking that I’m aware of.

Thanks to Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework, wireless mesh networking is here. It’s peer-to-peer. Get excited about it. 

  • Michael Tucker

    Combine this with a Ubiquiti wireless network and the possibilities are endless.

    • The_Only_Comment_That_Matters

      Ubiquitous network

      • Michael Tucker
      • Michael Tucker

        Actually the company’s name is Ubiquiti and used to be part of Motorola.

  • ucandisqusthis

    if it’s limited to Apple’s locked down platform, it isn’t going to change the world.

    most of the world doesn’t own or use Apple products.

    • Mykeljon

      So who, exactly, is buying the millions of iPhones that are sold month after month?

      • ucandisqusthis

        a shrinking minority share of the smartphone market

      • PMB01

        Too bad the numbers disagree with you.

      • Minor point relating to this article, but…no. See for data. Apple’s share is shrinking. And a continuation of this is almost inevitable, as the strategy for Apple is totally different than the strategy for Google and its Android handset makers. (BTW, I am a long-time iDevice user, so I’m not saying this because I love Android. I just want discussions to be based on facts.)

      • Thomas Rakewell

        Are you saying Apple sells the majority of all smartphones, and that their market share is growing?

      • PMB01

        At least in the US, Apple accounts for about 41% of smartphone sales. The next closest competitor is Samsung with about 25%. And that gap has been growing for awhile. It may not be as drastic elsewhere, but Apple’s definitely gaining ground. Now that all three of China’s major carriers officially support and carry the iPhone, Apple’s market share has exploded there. It’s also worth noting that the majority of smartphones that Samsung sells are the crappy, cheaper models that aren’t very good quality, probably don’t even support the latest version of Android, and will probably be replaced within a year because they run like crap. The people that buy them aren’t even in Apple’s market anyway because they just buy whatever crap phone is cheapest and don’t consider a top quality phone like the iPhone to be a good investment, despite the fact that they’ll whine and complain when their cheap phone stutters and lags like nobody’s business.

        Long story short: yes.

      • Thomas Rakewell

        Well that’s a much better answer there. You sound like a bit of a blinkered fanboy, of course, because you’re only talking about the positives so it’s not a balanced picture. You give actually figures for the US but not elsewhere, because it would be less supportive of your cause. I’ve only ever bought Apple myself, so I’m not anti-Apple, but I’d say the picture is more mixed than you portray it. The new plastic phones will definitely help in China but, let’s face it, innovation is slowing at Apple. It’s peaked.

        The first poster was right though – that’s the only bit I was really contending. Most of the world still doesn’t own Apple products and if this new technology is locked to Apple devices it will have limited impact. They’re right, I don’t see anything to contradict that assessment.

        Anyway thanks for your comment, I haven’t googled other stats to compare but it looks well researched.

      • PMB01

        The US figures are the only ones I knew off the top of my head and I didn’t want to make that post any longer than it already was. But the worldwide numbers aren’t drastically different and actually the 5S is the most popular model in China, not the 5c. I can’t find the chart right now, but the numbers differ from country to country. Apple leads in some while Samsung or Blackberry lead in others. Overall, Apple is still trending up. And that’s just talking about phones; there’s still all the iPod Touches and iPads that can take advantage of this as well and Apple most certainly dominates those markets, adding millions more devices tot he equation. And if we’re counting AirDrop (since it uses the same method), then you add in all the Macs that support that protocol as well. This certainly affects a very large part of the industry altogether and will have a huge impact as Apple continues to grow. Their innovation hasn’t slowed the least bit and that’s reinforced by the fact that companies still jump to respond to new Apple rumors and products with as much fervor as ever (Exhibit A & B- Samsung and Qualcomm’s response to the 64-bit A7 and the fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S5). You certainly don’t see Apple jumping to copy every stupid thing Samsung does!

      • Thomas Rakewell

        I refer you to my previous answer. ;)

        But I am on cult of mac dot com, I don’t know what I’m expecting! It’s like talking to a Scientologist.

      • PMB01

        You mean the one where you ignored the facts? That’s what I thought. Speaking of closed-minded individuals…

      • Thomas Rakewell

        Where I decided not to engage with an obsessive, one-sided level of detail, yeah.

      • PMB01

        Oh, you mean where you realized the facts actually support my point. Got it.

      • Thomas Rakewell

        Jesus. They actually don’t, and that’s even when you’re VERY selective with your precious facts! What you described IS a minority share of the market, and you’re unable to point to something that disproved the shrinking market share (the USA is not the world). And I am SO tired of this conversation. I’m doing it on an ipad, and iPads don’t handle comment sections very well so I keep having to refresh the page (I’ve refreshed it EIGHT times, just to type this). It’s obsessive, one sided, geeky people like you that give us Apple users a bad name though. I’m also as bad for engaging with it for this long. Let’s both get a life, adios.

      • PMB01

        Still ignoring those facts. How cute.

      • credulousdolt

        you’re both pretty much fucked in the head. no one cares, really: only the “technorati,” a laughable lot. use this phone or that one. makes no difference, unless it helps you get laid.

      • Thomas Rakewell

        I agree, really. I’ve just been stupid enough to engage some rabid fanatic in conversation, and now am struggling to get out of it!

        I mean, I could just stop replying… But, y’know.

      • Alan Zukor

        Last word freak.

      • Alan Zukor

        Scientologists are far less obnoxious.

      • Thomas Rakewell

        Ha. Well, that Tom Cruise sure seems like a nice guy.

      • Michael B.

        Clarification on AirDrop – since it doesn’t work between different devices (e.g. iPhone to Mac) it creates a bit of a fragmentation issue.

      • PMB01

        This issue will be resolved soon. They’ve been working out the kinks.

      • sgns

        “innovation is slowing” is inevitably a statement that has to be judged retrospectively.

      • Bastion

        “…but, let’s face it, innovation is slowing at Apple. It’s peaked.”

        Ahem, irony alert, but this article is about something that Apple released on September 18, 2013 (6 month ago) that includes a yet-to-be-leveraged feature that is the first mainstream implementation of this technology (according to the author) and will change the world (according to the author).

        Is that not innovation?

        Then there is the 7.1 update on March 10 that included support for CarPlay. Again, not something “in the wild” yet, but poised for mainstream adoption. iPod/iPhone car integration used to be, if you were lucky, power and play/playlist controls, maybe bluetooth speakerphone if you had an iPhone and the hardware in your car. CarPlay will take iOS integration to a whole new level (i.e. innovation).

      • eenoog (one-eye)

        Why compare Apple to Samsung? Why not iOS to Android. Oh, wait…

      • thecrud

        Dont confound them with facts.

      • videodegato

        “How an Under-Appreciated iOS 7 Feature Will Change the >>> WORLD <<<"

        "It's totally true, because here in the US…"

        Sure, cause US IS the whole world.

      • PMB01

        Try reading my entire comment, dumbass.

      • outside the us, a.k.a. in the wast majority of the world, apple is very tiny. they’re even behind windows phone by now in quite some countries.

      • dcj001

        “Apple’s high-end iPhone 5s has been so remarkably successful, in spite of the supposed cheapening trend in smartphone buyers’ tastes, that Apple’s critics have been forced to pounce upon the supposed ‘failure’ of the iPhone 5c instead; a phone that sells so ‘terribly’ that it also outsold the ostensibly successful Samsung Galaxy S4 on half of America’s top carriers, and pushed every other Android phone out of the top U.S. sales charts entirely, from the first month it went on sale.”

      • dcj001

        “Apple’s high-end iPhone 5s has been so remarkably successful, in spite of the supposed cheapening trend in smartphone buyers’ tastes, that Apple’s critics have been forced to pounce upon the supposed ‘failure’ of the iPhone 5c instead; a phone that sells so ‘terribly’ that it also outsold the ostensibly successful Samsung Galaxy S4 on half of America’s top carriers, and pushed every other Android phone out of the top U.S. sales charts entirely, from the first month it went on sale. “

      • Thomas Rakewell
      • Thomas Rakewell

        Samsung sold almost three times as many smartphones as rival Apple in the third quarter, according to Gartner, reflecting the South Korean tech giant’s growing dominance in the increasingly competitive industry.
        Vendors worldwide sold 80,357 Samsung smartphones to end users, during the July-September period, compared with just 30,330 Apple handsets, new data from the technology research firm released late Thursday showed.

        Samsung’s share of the global smartphone market stood at 32.1 percent in the third quarter, unchanged from the same period in 2012, while Apple’s share fell to 12.1 percent, from 14.3 percent. In the second quarter of 2013, Samsung’s share was 31.7 percent, while Apple’s was 14.2 percent.

        (Read more: Samsung keeps it simple to overtake Apple)

        “While Samsung’s share was flat in the third quarter, Samsung increased its lead over Apple in the global smartphone market. The launch of the Samsung Note 3 helped reaffirm Samsung as the clear leader in the large display smartphone market, which it pioneered,” Gartner said, referring to Samsung’s latest “phablet” – oversized smartphone handsets that are a cross between a phone and tablet.

      • :)

        Take a read of the latest news, Thomas. I’ll summarize it for you: a “flopped” model of Apple sells better than the top model of Samsung. And Apple’s other model sells 2.5 times more. So in the end, 51 million iPhones this quarter is murderous to all competitors. But I guess selling millions of cheap shits (literally, people drop Samsung phones in the toilet and buy a new one because it’s actually cheaper than having it fixed) with little profit is more important.

        I think the only reason Samsung is selling many more phones than other Android manufacturers is that they spent over $14 billion on marketing. It’s more than all competitors combined, yet not enough to surpass Apple in the high-end market, while most of the wasted money was aimed at that. They’re everywhere up to the point of annoying and at times humorous when they pay celebrities to use their devices but the celebrities tweet from their iPhones and iPads about it.

        “The strength of Galaxy phones is fading, however. Despite the marketing blitz that Samsung put behind its flagship smartphones — the Galaxy S4 and the Note 3 — sales were weaker than expected over the holiday season.”

        No matter how much money you waste at marketing, if your device simply isn’t desirable enough, you’re not going to have a good time fighting Apple. Specs won’t cut it when you’re fighting iPhones. You’ll need much, much more.

        Samsung’s doing great if you take Apple out of the picture though, I’ll give you that. Of course, if we take Apple out of the picture we should also overlook Apple’s money. Which means Samsung’s chip division’s sales would plummet. Hmm. Oh well, shit happens.

      • Wampler Longacre

        “Vendors worldwide sold 80,357 Samsung smartphones to end users” … Dude, look at your own numbers there. Something’s wrong, because they’re off by at least one order of magnitude.

      • PMB01

        It’s easy to sell more smartphones when you sell dozens of different models that don’t support the latest version of Android and are cheap pieces of plastic that don’t last very long. Given that Apple sold 30.3 million smartphones (4,4S,5) in that period, no 3 Samsung phones sold nearly that many. Samsung’s strategy of selling as many different crap models as they can make may be good at increasing market share, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good strategy and it reduces the value of market share numbers. Samsung won’t actually overtake Apple until it can sell 3 models that outsell Apple’s 3 models.

      • Thomas Rakewell

        No. That’s not how it works. Market share is based on your market share, not some model vs. model comparison and not on the “value per unit”.

        If Vauxhall produce 10 cars and Ford 20, Ford’s market share isn’t calculated on its first 10 cars only, or how much it earns per car, just because that’s its rival’s strategy! So similarly you can’t just pick 3 Apple phones and 3 Android phones and say that comparison represents the whole market, because it doesn’t.

        What you’re describing there is Apple’s approach to handsets, and I’d agree they’re higher quality. So far at least, and probably for a while yet. You’re also equating market share with either profit or income per unit. They’re different. This discussion, and my comment that you took issue with, was about market share. And now you come in with a misleading opinion on “value per unit” to try and distort the facts. I don’t know whether you’re misguided or being deliberately misleading. ARE you a Scientologist too? Or a Jehovah’s Witness? You’re employing similar tactics.

      • PMB01

        Wow, I clearly went over your head with that one!

        I said nothing about profit, “value per unit”, or that only 3 phones comprise the entire market. The only fact that I was pointing to is that market share by itself is misleading to use to prove most anything.

      • Valan

        If you go with the car analogy then would you include bicycles and scooters?

        I think Mike was talking about the phone owners who are in the market to use the web. For this group then Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework is a game changer since Apple’s iPhone dominates the web usage stats by phones.

      • peteo

        Pertaining to this article, the real question is how many smart phones support Multipeer Connectivity Framework, which right now based on how many iPhones have iOS 7 (80%) is a crap load, meaning this could have a meaningful impact. Does not matter if iPhones are in the “minority” since there are hundred of millions of them and that should allow this feature to work good. If android adds a feature like this, it would be great, but would probably take a while to grow since most androids are not updated to the latest version. I would take allot of people buying new android phones

      • Will

        Wouldn’t it require just an app to set this up? No need to upgrade.

      • Zedexodus84 .

        Actually the numbers disagree with you. From what I understand though Apple has a much higher market share in the USA.

      • Bernie

        Google is also working on it guys, read the article

      • Yohannon

        Guys, guys… ucandisqusthis was the “bad cop”, Rakewell thus looks better by comparison, but is still a troll. A mean spirited little sociopath who, despite his obvious distaste for all things Apple, still manages to spend a LOT of time on this site poking y’all.

        Nothing to see here…

      • MBat

        Mostly USA and a world wide minority. Talking about market share, in the whelties western country, germany, ios is at 15% while android is 75%, In the least healthy country, spain, it’s 2%. In an expanding market, you can keep selling more and more devices and still shrink your market share.

      • Knight Moonsuga

        Americans/Chinese… a big portion of the world lol.

    • Decio Arruda

      Really?!? In 2014 people like you still exist? Does someone really need to tell you the benefits of a locked down eco-system all over again?

      • Grunt_at_the_Point

        I think you missed the point Ucan….. was trying to make. He did not say Apple’s platform was a bad thing. I believe his point is since Apple’s platform is locked down the system will only benefit Apple device users. Hence, the world, as the author of the article intimated, at least more than half of it, will not be effected since they use other platforms.

      • ucandisqusthis

        Sorry, I didn’t realize freedom, individuality, and thinking for yourself were outdated. How embarrassing for me, and Hail Apple!

      • Touffy

        Well, since persons like me still exist in 2014, I’m very lucky you’re here to enlighten me. What are the benefits of the locked-down eco-system, apart from Apple’s margin ?

      • Decio Arruda

        A more controlled performance, longer update support, less amount of viruses, and apps have to be evaluated deeply in both quality and security before entering the App Store.

        The single core iPhone 4 @ 800MHz can run iOS 7.1 at a decent speed. Is there any example of a 4 year old android phone that is able to run the latest version of android and with constant updates? No, if Apple’s OS was in more devices, or it’s ecosystem present in other platforms things like this could not happen.

        BTW, I have an iPhone 5c, so don’t go on me trying to ask me why I’ve got a 4 year old phone.

      • Touffy

        I’d rather ask you why you felt the need to buy a 5c since you’re telling your iPhone 4 works so well.

        Seriously though, are so many flaws in your argumentation, I don’t even know where to begin.

        First : you are mixing up two things : One is the fact that iOS can only be run on Apple devices. The other is that virtually all third party content must be distributed through Apple’s marketplaces. Your not separating these two aspects give the impression the latter offers users a better app performance and update support. Which is wrong, since this content is not created, nor maintained by Apple.

        Two : You only seem to think in terms of security or “performance” (I’d rather say speed, since that’s all you seem to care about). All of your arguments are based on comparisons with Android.

        So now, it’s my turn.

        I don’t really care about iOS being only available on Apple devices, simply because I don’t imagine someone wanting to have to use it in the first place. Besides, all software has system requirements, and I respect copyright, and the fact that it’s sold as a hardware-software bundle.
        I would like to note, however, that a 4-year update support is very short, compared to what we see in the rest of the computer world (even Windows…). The fact that Android phone manufacturers are even worse doesn’t change the fact that Apple has been pushing for ever faster obsolescence.

        Regarding security, there’s no denying the situation on iOS is quite good. However, I find Apple’s stance on security (never communicate on security risks) driven more by marketing reasons than security ones. Not communicating on a vulnerability leaves the consumer at risk, more so than telling them about it, because they cannot take individual security measures and have to rely on a fix (which will be labeled “various bugfixes”).
        And as we have seen recently, even Apple makes security mistakes.

        And last (because i’m short on time), but not least, I wholly disapproves of Apple’s policy of not allowing the installation of apps from other sources. As we have seen many times, Apple censors contents and have no qualms to remove third party apps to further their own agenda.
        Many features on the hardware remain unaccessible. This article talks about how one API is going to “change the world” (no exaggeration at all, of course). But what about the world changing apps that CANNOT be made because of this policy ?

        So I’m going to give another definition of performance, as the amount of things one can do with it. In this regards, the Apple “locked-down” environment purposely limits the performance of my device.

        It reduces what I can do with the device, it limits the developpers possibilities and makes them dependant on Apple’s whim, it limits creativity and promotes censorship.
        So yes, it’s ‘a little’ more secure. But at what cost ?

      • Wampler Longacre

        One actually could argue that Apple maintaining the app store for their own products does indeed enable better update support, but that’s only because Apple does it quite well – in fact better than any “app store” in mobile device history. But that’s neither here nor there. What you appear to be advocating is the same sort of model they now offer for their PC devices: You can use their store, or you can use apps from anywhere signed with a developer certificate, or you can use apps from anywhere, period, depending on the level of risk you personally want to undertake.

        I’m cool with that too. Seems like a fair idea. Apple is not likely to allow it because it could potentially drive a wedge into their control of their own platform’s software ecosystem, but that’s their beef, not mine.

        The thing is, though, it’s a minor gripe. In real-world terms it doesn’t affect me much. I’ve wracked my brain trying to come up with examples of important functionality that could be offered in my phone, that is NOT in the app store, and I’ve got almost nothing.

        You say it’s “a little” more secure … actually it’s a LOT more secure. And you ask: At what cost? Not much.

      • Wampler Longacre

        Also, you yourself are clearly guilty of “mixing up two things”, when you compare update and support cycles of phone software with that of PCs.

        If you want to contest Android vs. iOS and then take it to the PC realm with their respective companies, you’re just making a one-sided argument worse. Google’s history of support for their own PC software products is just about the worst in the entire industry. Four years is not their metric for dropping support, it’s their metric for the average amount of time their products LIVE (often in beta the ENTIRE TIME) before they CANCEL them, dump the user data, and shut them down.

        Not good, from my point of view. (I own a Mac Pro manufactured in 2006. Mavericks runs on it quite well.)

      • Jacob Nørgaard

        Actually, KitKat (Android 4.4.2) can run well on older phones. So there. And come one people. Yes iPhones sell well, but there are far, far more Android handsets out there than iPhones. Apple are number 1 on the numbers when you single out each handset model, but not in the total number of phones.

      • BrianCalhoun

        I’m not aware of any 4 year old android devices running KitKat, and iPhones may not be #1 is raw sells but their individual users spend more money on apps and download more data.

      • Jacob Nørgaard

        I’d like to point out, that while my old iPhone 4 does indeed run iOS 7.1, it’s not really the same experience as it is on the iPhone 5S. Loads of features are removed and I can’t see downloading more data is necessarily a good thing?

        I download about 750GB data per month on my VDSL. Does it make me a better user than my neighbour who downloads 25GB?
        Oh and just because you’re not aware of something, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

      • BrianCalhoun

        User engagement is important on a mobile platform because it is an incentive for developers on the platform as they know they’re likely to get paid. We all know more android phones are sold but from the data the average android user gives less money to developers. By download more data I literally mean they are engaged in more smartphone activity as opposed to simply texting or making phone calls. My apologies yes older phones can run KitKat but there are no official releases from any manufacturer that do so.

      • piwwo

        Pls tell us the benefits of sitting in jail. You get free food, free room, free tv, free electicity, but no free-dom

      • Roland of Gilead

        Well if you were actually someone who really understood the differences you’d actually be surprised to find that there are actually benefits to both types. With platforms that allow you more freedom there is undoubtedly more creativity by the very definition and a lot more software available.Of course this means that interfacing between hardware and software can have drawbacks and things can’t be as optimised because of the wide range of systems that are available. However it also means that alot more people are able to work on it and find bugs and backdoors. If you actually keep up to date with cryptanalysis news you’d know that Apple had a monumental flaw in their ssl security across all their devices. It’s the kind of flaw that’d easily be spotted in a more open network.It’s a pretty simple equation,If you have more people working and doing any crazy things they want it’s more likely they’ll find problems faster. Also the whole locked-down stuff is complete bs. Apple say they have all these high standards for apps to be placed on their store but why are there any apps at all that are taken down for hiding malware or having hidden emulators even?Obviously they aren’t as thorough as they claim. The emulator thing is a big joke because while malware can be quite small, an emulator is actually relatively large so I don’t know how they missed that.
        In addition the whole security of apple is really just applicable for now. In cryptanalysis the amount of effort put into hacking a system is simply time vs profit. Currently to any hacker worth their salt it’s pretty obvious that there’s not much to gain from hacking OSx. It’s mostly used by people who honestly don’t do much work that would be worthwhile to acquire.Of course this will change as apple gains dominance because it will try to move into the formal industry and be used more.
        And that brings me to my next point that the more people that use a specific system the easier it is to hack.It just becomes easier to recognise flaws and repeated patterns using basic algorithms when hacking.Windows was just as safe when it came out but once the system is learnt and analysed it becomes vulnerable.
        And please don’t fool yourself that Apple has some holy grail that’s invincible. It’s mostly down to the UnIx system it’s based off. However I will give you a great tip.
        But now you might say well why can’t we have a safe system that inspires creativity and gives everyone what they want? Well there is one! Use Linux. It’s based of the same UNIX system as osx,is completely user driven(so all backdoors and petential hacks are quickly found) and since it’s inifnitely more customisable than windows you can make look like windows or osx.It’s also free…. It’s the platform that literally every programmer uses because it is literally much better than windows or osx.The only thing is that it doesn’t have MS office BUT since it’s such an open platfrom there are a ton of options to choose from for wordprocessing. It’s lighter than osx or windows so it can run on pretty much any setup and never run into RAM issues.No viruses,extremely customisable,endless amount of software from the community.
        Now although I haven’t owned an apple device for about two years I can say that I appreciate the fact that the users like it for the ease of use and how pretty it is. Nothing wrong with that but it’s really a platform for people that don’t care about the future. It works for now but from my perspective it’s done been done with a very narrow perspective.Don’t believe me? Well you’d be surprised to know that the first apple computers were very much like linux.Much more freedom that windows ever offered and that’s what made them great.It might not have been as profitable but it was done with a conscience.If you’re an average user I guess none of this makes any difference but for anyone looking into the future it’s not ideal.
        TL:DR The benefits of closed systems are short term.There are better options out there and dont be fooled by hyperbole.Oh and please remember this.Wether you’re an apple/ms/android fanboy…they’re just companies they literally don’t give a damn about you exept for your money. Please stop fanboying
        (And btw I’m not just pulling this crap from thin air I have actually studied cryptography at university).

      • Roland of Gilead

        Oh and just a titbit I forgot that might be interesting. Clean installed (and updated of course) OSx systems have been hacked through safari year on year in something under 5 seconds. Of course it was done by the best hacker in the world but it still proves the point that it’s not invulnerable.

      • Roland of Gilead

        Oh and this is not just for you but for every mac user out there…don’t go onto ANY public network Apple hasn’t patched the SSL flaw on macs yet. I don’t usually come here but I couldn’t find a post telling anyone.In fact what the hell? I don’t see any mention of this anywhere.It’s one thing to be a fan of apple but to blatanly ignore important information like this is just shitty journalism.It might not make readers feel good but it’s much more imprtant to tell them than turn a blind eye. This really makes me wonder how the average osx user thinks…And as a parting shot(since I actually clicked this article on facebook since it seems interesting) This mesh network is actually pretty impressive and was admittedly something I was thinking of implementing myself,good to see there are likeminded individuals around the world

    • Andrew C.

      Just like Apple’s locked down platform, you’re locking down your perspective & context of the article & automatically assume it’s all how Apple is going to change the world. On Apple devices, yes, it’s limited their customers, but if you read beyond wherever the article mentions “Apple” or “iOS7” is that Google is also betting on it with their wearables. It’s the technology & push of the wireless mesh networking that is going to change the world. (refer to: “With Apple and Google building in the foundations for app developers to easily create ad-hoc wireless mesh networks wherever they go, it’s only a matter of time before the wonders and power of mesh networking hits the public in a big way.”). Apple (with the help of OpenGarden/Fire chat) was first to implement it in the form chatting/communication in millions of their already existing products with a software update.

    • Erin

      Stupidest thing I’ve read on the internet all day. Wow. That’s saying something. And what has Google’s supposedly “open” platform done in this realm, hmm? That’s right. Nothing.

      • ucandisqusthis

        Do you really not understand that most of the world doesn’t own or use Apple products? Or does that just make you sad, so you call it stupid?

      • Corey Taylor

        Tagging onto your comment because it supposes the important part is most of the world.
        An important aspect of whether a technology succeeds or not is *adoption*.
        As previously stated, in the US, Apple takes up about 40% of the mobile market. So all of the other brands: Huawei, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, LG, etc. have to share the other 60%. Not all of the rest of 60% is smart phones. Many of the smartphones are unable to run the latest versions of Android. Many of the top end smart phones might even block the feature.

        So, any implementation of mesh networking on Android is likely to have low adoption rates. Just to throw a guess, maybe one out of fifty people you come across can create a mesh network with you.

        You’ve seen this with that S Beam feature where you could touch phones to share pictures/contact info/ etc. Never really caught on.

        Now, if Apple can push a feature out to most, if not all, of its devices.. you can count on almost every other person you meet being able to support the feature.

        Look at air drop: I’ve used it several times to share pictures with people.

        Apple’s in a unique position to bring these technologies out at an adoption rate able to make these technologies successful. After that, then can it be adopted on cheaper devices and sent on to the rest of the world to enjoy.

      • Roland of Gilead

        Go to a google developers conference and find out.If you’re an average user don’t talk cause you don’t know. Honestly it’s annoying to see all you fanboys(both android and apple) arguing. Both sides don’t seem to know jack about the actual technology and just quote random articles written by so=called “tech journalist” whose qualifications seem to be that they can install software on their computers without any help

    • sgns

      If it’s here, it will be everywhere.

  • Tyler Carewe

    I agree, the possibilities with this tech are amazing. Also, where north of SF are you? I grew up in Petaluma and always reference it the way you did in your article!

  • William Donelson

    How many people will block it on their phones to improve battery life?

  • JohnJohnJ

    Author, you rave about the app. But I’m curious…did you read any reviews of the app at the app store?

    • :)

      It’s not the buggy app the author’s enthusiastic about. It’s the functionality beneath and its great potential.

    • pgroot

      they are probably using the (very good) strategy of putting out a minimum viable product (solid core feature and rough around the edges) to iterate from real-world performance. It will get better with each update.

  • Excellent article. And it is true that this app is not, in itself, important. It is the underlying technology, which will be built upon by many app developers.

    I imagine that devs might figure out some way to bridge the disparate systems and offer apps that operate on Android and iOS, making the capability work across ecosystems. (And it’s still impressive and very usable even if it is limited to one ecosystem.)

    Communication within the mesh network might be fine, but if there is only one Internet-connected user at the “outside end” of the chain, then it would be very congested if lots of people within the mesh network tried to access the Internet simultaneously; like an over-crowded access point. But, if there are multiple Internet-connected users at the outside end, the load would be spread. Even this is just nitpicking; the potential uses for this are really interesting, especially if handsets (eventually) increase WiFi broadcast power and range, as right now they’re pretty limited.

    Very cool!

  • 9yarder

    This is turnkey technology, immediately available to a huge number of iOS devices. A good application would be peer-to-peer with fixed LAN points in a retailer or public space. For example, when I’m grocery shopping I’d like more information and range than what would be provided by iBeacon devices. Apple would make it easy to develop new apps for retailers to combine inventory management with customer services. How about a network of shopping carts to track customer activity? However the LAN points are used, they can connect to a peer with local flash disk and battery backup, so a retailer can batch update transactions to a central processor. Car-to-car peers would be a killer app. The steering wheel will contain motion sensors which will relay lane changes to all nearby peers. How about if all the passengers on a plane sitting on the tarmac could send a joint complaint to the FAA? Another example would be filtering of WiFi content in the home, for parents to locally manage kid’s access to the internet. And a school could manage their own local LAN cloud network, with no IT management or setup required. Sports – all the members of a football team will wear hearing aids and be connected for every play. Question – could this lead to metered or shared ISP internet access, which results in reduced charges for the consumer?

  • SV650

    Mike Elgan says: “Here’s an example. There’s an ultramarathon that takes place in California each year on a trail called Skyline-to-the-Sea. It’s a roughly 30 mile trail through giant redwood forests where there is no cell connectivity. Using FireChat or some other app that uses iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework, race volunteers, staff and participants could extend Internet connectivity and communication in an ad hoc mesh network that extends the length of the course.”

    With WiFi range of 100m or less in the redwood forest, the organizers would require at least 500 devices to cover this trail; if connecting by Bluetooth they would need 5000. Failure of a single device brings down the whole chain. Not very practical. Where such software might be useful is where a large number of folks are in close proximity and wish to communicate e.g. at a sporting venue, concert etc. Without a mass of people to create the mesh, it fails.

  • André Bohna

    One big restriction not mentioned is that there is a limitation of 8 connected peers.
    So the main use case will be small groups of people exchanging data.

    We have used the MultiPeerConnectivity Framework for a Walkie-Talkie App called RADIOUS available here:

  • Serban Streza

    Open Garden are more active on the Android environment for a very good reason – the platform is my heart more suitable for this type of interaction. On Android it also communicates with windows and not just messaging. VERY IMPRESSIVE.

  • Steve Cropper

    So as many folks familiar with Networking will understand this means that your Smart Phone now becomes a router in such an ad hoc network and so will have its network bandwidth, memory and processor cycles consumed supporting other people’s data traffic. In an emergency this is fair (assuming there is a way to switch it on and off and know when it is on). There is also a potential security risk associated with this technology.

    Interesting to see the Android – iOS discussion below. It overlooks the obvious that Android is a technology, that while open and portable, relies on one of many manufacturers to get their implementation usable and consistent for the end user. Ultimately this really means that users gravitate to a specific manufacturer anyway – depending on the experience that they are comfortable with. Not all android implementations are the same. What is really important in this debate is will the Manufacturers (including Samsung and Apple) cooperate on developing this as an Open Standard with applicable safeguards and common controls.

    It really doesn’t matter if you are an Apple bigot or an Android bigot or undeclared [:-)] if you happen to be in a community (Family, Friends, etc.) where both technologies are used – they still need to work together effectively. The company who delivers a solution that meets the End Users needs and works will end up leading the way and everyone else will follow suite because of consumer demand!

    Looking forward the Cult’s next update on this to help us understand how the technology will impact our devices and what to look out for as these technologies evolve!

  • This is great! This was one of the most interesting features of the OLPC XO laptops, and I don’t know if that feature ever actually got fully implemented on that platform. I see it as handy for things like a chat app, but it could be absolutely amazing and literally lifesaving in an emergency scenario.

    I’m curious, I believe in the XO’s case, they had to design the wireless chips to be able to do this. If some of the comments are about Android and Windows devices doing this, is this now a standard capability of wifi? Or some specific chipsets? Or is this done with something like going back and forth between networks?

  • Is this multi peer connectivity available to iOS apps while they are in the background? That would make this truly revolutionary since you could act as a sort of Tor node without any effort. If it requires the app being open, then it’s DOA.

    • Tim

      No it’s not, this framework only works in the foreground – I tried implementing this very idea and gave up when I realised that not only does it need a critical mass to be successful, but everyone needed the app running too.

  • Yunik

    But how can people chat without internet is it. Limited with the range between the 2 people who are chatting

    • :)

      Say you’re in New York and 2 million people nearby you have iOS 7. You could chat with your buddy across town via all those iPhones, as each of them functions as a node. You won’t need internet, just the wireless mesh network around you.

    • Zack

      Lets say you are in NYC. Your friend Sally is 5 blocks away from you at a stereotypical eatery (Starbucks). You want to text her, but you are at Mens’ warehouse on your iPad (No WiFi: no internet). You open up the Mesh-capable messaging app and connect to someone over Bluetooth who is within 9 meters of you. This person’s device is off, and they will never know that you are connected to them. Their device is connected to someone else’s device who is within 9 meters of them. You can now send data 18 meters away from you. Imagine the chain goes on and on for multiple city blocks… that is it will spread out as far as it can…. as long as a device with the app is near each node. If you want to send a message to your friend Sally (at Starbucks), you simply send a message to her through the app. The behind-the-scenes is: the message is encrypted with a key… only you’re and Sally’s devices know this key. The encrypted message is sent to the person you linked too, then that device finds out which of the many of it’s connections go to Sally…. then it sends the encrypted message to Sally. This goes on until the encrypted message reaches Sally’s device. Sally’s device realizes the message is for it, decrypts it with the secret key, and alerts sally. Wohalla! you just messaged someone without using the internet.

  • jeffp3456

    this is definitely an idea whose time has come!
    i was wondering when and now it is only a matter of time..

  • ScotHibb

    Fecken stupid minges, this is cell companies finding ways around us using Unlimited Data Plans. When my iPhone is on 4G LTE I wifi hotspot the world. I love when my bill comes in showing 50g data usage for the month while my brother pays extra if he goes over 4! Haaaaaaa, eat my dick Sprint!!!

  • None

    This has been a part of the One Laptop Per Child software stack for about 6 years. I don’t see what is so new about it. It is cool that someone is bringing it to non-impoverished countries finally though.

    • Tim

      Impoverished countries where they can afford iPhones?

  • Vincent Tervooren

    Perfect for burning man!

  • Not Apple’s idea at all, but yes, it is revolutionary.

  • Tim

    This app idea, although great, requires the app to be running. MultipeerConnectivity framework does not work in the background, so everyone will need the app running in the foreground for an unbroken chain of devices. And MultipeerConnectivity isn’t cross-platform either, it uses Bonjour as a foundation, so everyone in the vicinity will need an iOS 7 device. Cool concept, and definitely going to be seeing more of this outside of iOS, but I don’t think FireChat will take off the way this article claims.

    • Zack

      The Multipeer Connectivity Framework is mainly a subclass of Apples other networking features (Such as core Bluetooth). Core Bluetooth CAN run in the background. A mesh network like the one described above and in the comments will only be sustainable if it is in the background… meaning at this point in time the Multiplier Connectivity framework is not a viable option. But, as I’ve mentioned, the APIs used by it are viable.

  • Wolf

    Man-in-the-middle attacks, anyone?

  • thctimes

    yay so my phone will go flatter quicker because people will be stealing all my phones bandwidth to have a chat.

    • what

      no. just no. -.-

      • Elliot G

        Well technically yes.

      • what

        If he doesnt like it, he can turn it off. simple. No one forces him to use it.

  • Rob Lewis

    Wow, the first I’ve heard of this actually existing. I’ve been pitching it for several years to anybody who would listen, ever since I first read about the possibility, and how it could be a literal lifesaver after a disaster that knocked out the cell towers. Very cool!

  • Howard Treesong

    I’m happy I was able to help even in this very modest capacity :-).

  • TheBasicMind

    One of the really exciting aspects of this is that it will be really difficult for oppressive regimes to deal with. They will start finding open-ness and freedom of speech literally seep in over their borders. The truth will be free!

  • Vinit Atal

    Might be a silly question, but who ends up bearing the cost of higher data traffic through their phones? Wouldn’t the ones with the internet/ wireless connection on their phones end up paying for the ones without?

  • Knight Moonsuga

    downloading that now… bring on the mesh network.. end the ISPs control.

  • Gray Panther

    This app needs to be refined, as others suggested ISMW. Currently it’s nothing but a stream of mindless, vacuous commentary emanating from a wide area.

  • Druter

    Again apple claiming credit for something invented by someone else. one laptop per child did this wayyyyy back folks

    • rapier1

      It was also part of the Zune system from Microsoft. It wasn’t 802.11s compliant and the Zune was a flop but it was also back in 2006 when they rolled that out.

  • Todd Johnson

    sounds nice, as long as every person in that mesh has good intentions. Otherwise, they can filter and spoof anyone else in the mesh for whatever data they are sending through the mesh.

  • Ryan

    These articles are so dumb.

  • BoBoZoBo

    Im sure you think this yet another Apple invention, but like so many Apple “inventions” this has been around for a while. You are right, this type of network is the future of the internet, possibly. But apple did not start this, Juniper and Level3 have been pushing this for a while.

  • Progressive_Joe

    This will lead to disaster. On peer to peer networks ALL the peers must have good intentions.

    Good luck with that.

    • rapier1

      Not necessarily. Each node basically forwards the packets as necessary until it reaches the destination. If one of the nodes is compromised then that could be a problem for unencrypted communications but any strong encryption method would protect the integrity of the data stream.

  • rapier1

    Well, technically it isn’t the first major mainstream implementation of wireless mesh networking. It’s been part of the Linux kernel since 2.6.26. Now, you car argue that Linux isn’t mainstream (and I’ll accept that) but that means the choice is between Microsoft and Apple (you can argue if Android should be there but I see it as a subset of Linux) . Microsoft had implemented something like this back in the Zune days. In wasn’t 802.11s based but it was a wireless ad hoc mesh network.

    Kudos to Apple for making the leap but their not blazing new territory on this one.

  • Chris Lyon

    How does the in/out mesh user get docked for carrying everyone’s bandwidth?

  • Dave4321

    How battery intensive will this be?

  • Amit Ghosh

    The one thing that the article does not mention is that unless you are just chatting with someone in the ad-hoc network that you have just created, some device somewhere will need to connect to the Internet if any device in that network needs to have internet connectivity. And if that is a cellular network connectivity, that person will be paying for that data and they need to be OK with it. (So you might be paying for a stranger’s use of the 1/2/5/Unlimited, etc GB data allocation that your data plan has)

  • SactoDan

    Could not find this in the app store.

  • Jonathan Finney

    The TX power of the bluetooth and/or wifi from an iPhone is very minimal. Think about 1/4 to 1/8 (27mw) or your normal home SOHO wireless device.

    With that being said – a distance of 7-12 feet is all you can count on and if you throw in obstructions like bodies and/or walls – it dramatically decreases.

    The next thing to consider is co-channel interference even on the frequency hopping bluetooth. Apple products will not transmit on UNI-II Bands in the 5GHZ range, so that leaves the 2.4Ghz range with only three usable channels and a little more in the 5GHZ range and you will have a bad time.

    Now let’s imagine a sports event like MLB, which Cisco is currently surveying and will be deploying wireless to stadiums and now 10,000’s of people broadcasting on a very limited RF space……

    It looks nice on paper but doesn’t pass the test.

  • piwwo

    Clean Water for everyone could change the world
    Fair welfare could change the world
    Regulation for arms industry could change the world
    And alot of more things could change the world
    But egocentric hipsters care for chat apps and think they do charity when buying wholefood products and frequently signing up for online peditions or voting edgy blog articles.

  • Camera Plus

    Camera Plus with AirSnap also uses the wireless mesh technology to implement effortless remote photography. This nifty feature allows for really cool group selfies and the like to be captured by a simple trigger.

  • fluffylucy

    Lol This functionality has existed for the Android platform for some time. The Serval project aims to bring about this kind of mesh communications to parts of the world, not covered by existing systems. It is free, open source and designed to benefit the multitudes.

    The Serval project already operates successfully. Its developers chose not to release the first implementation on ios because in their words, Apple/IOS “presents serious obstacles to developing a fully functional Serval Mesh app”. i use an iPhone and have been waiting for over a year, for Apple to allow developers to develop something that my Android using friends already use. I just hope that they aren’t trying muddy the waters by introducing a watered down copy of the technology, and that they have made their system compatible with what is already in existence, instead of trying to further lock us into the Apple universe.

  • John Hertenberger

    Thinking about sporting/entertainment events that usually cause cell service to crap out for everyone; couldn’t that be eliminated w/ this technology (for messaging at least)?

  • Pablo

    How long before the NSA screams terrorists and takes it away, starts spying on it, etc?

  • The Guy


  • Liakakovic

    There is already an app out there called Splum. It uses the Multi-Peer Connectivity but combines it with iBeacons to display your peer’s location. Check it out

  • sjeohp

    “It can also extend an Internet connect to a place where none exists”

    Can you explain how it does this please? I don’t believe it can.

  • What’s your evidence that Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework runs a mesh network that “can enable two users to chat … when they are far beyond WiFi and Bluetooth range from each other — connected with a chain of peer-to-peer users”?

    While I haven’t worked with MPC yet, I’ve read the documentation, and there’s no sign that it’s an actual mesh network. It works over an ad-hoc WiFi or Bluetooth network but is limited by the range of that network (maybe 100 feet or so.) The Apple docs talk about connecting to “nearby” devices.

    An MIT Technology Review article about FireChat says “The new feature of iOS7 currently only supports data moving directly from one device to another” — i.e. not relayed between devices.

    Open Garden does have its own technology for true mesh networking that can set up wide-range connectivity as you describe, but I think you’re getting that and Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity mixed up. I’m not sure whether the two can be combined; it would depend on whether Apple’s framework allows a device to join two independent “personal-area networks” at the same time, allowing an app to relay data between them.

  • Also: One of the reasons I haven’t started coding to Multipeer Connectivity yet (and maybe the reason few other devs have) is that there’s no cross-platform support. Not even on Mac OS, which surprises me. It’s not based on standard networking protocols and Apple hasn’t released any information on the protocol. That means there’s no prospect of being able to communicate with anything other than other iOS devices using it.

    In the past, Apple’s networking group has been good about open development of important technologies like Bonjour (whose specs have been published via the IETF from the very beginning, and which has an open source reference implementation.) MPC seems like an unwelcome step back from this. In today’s environment, proprietary network protocols don’t cut it, and if Apple wants more adoption of MPC it should open the technology.

  • rjr162

    No way. If you think my device is going to sit open for other devices to wirelessly connect, you’re nuts. Plus talk about battery drain, and (besides the mesh), apps like this have existed for quite a long time using a “LAN” made from AdHoc wifi or bluetooth links (hell even some multiplayer games allow two player modes via a bluetooth link).

    All in all, nothing new besides the Mesh being more main stream, but with the potential security risks that can introduce, no thanks

  • gommer strike

    If you’re within range of a person with Bluetooth, why wouldn’t you just…you know…*talk* to that person, face to face?

    Lol, I know, I know…the point of this, is to utilize Bluetooth as one possible peer-to-peer connection point, and so your device becomes just one of many active nodes.

    Just joking :)

  • Coração Tricolor

    What about FireTalks ?

  • Thiago Martins

    The most impressive Meshnet I ever tried (and in fact, I’m using it on a daily basis), is called: “Hyperboria”, based on the cjdns router (open source software)… You have a fixed IPv6 address (fc00::/8 range), encrypted, distributed… It is AWESOME!
    Hyperboria + Bitcoin = End of the World as we know it.

  • I could see this being useful in a protest situation where the government may decide to cut off connectivity. Another use could be a concert.