Written by Tammy Tan
On September 28, the Hong Kong community formed the Occupy Central movement to protest the electoral reforms proposed by Mainland China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
Amidst rumors that the Hong Kong government would cripple cellular networks in protest areas, organizers encouraged demonstrators to download an app called FireChat. Within 24 hours, a staggering 100,000 downloads were recorded.
A mobile app that allows users to communicate without internet connection through a mesh network setup, FireChat was designed with two uses in mind: for the developing world, where data plans are exclusively expensive, and for live events or festivals, where cellular networks tend to be congested; the app already gained success earlier this year during the 2014 Burning Man Festival in Nevada.
FireChat uses the smartphone’s Bluetooth or WiFi signals to connect with other devices within 40 to 70m. As more devices link together, the network’s range expands in a daisy-chain-like fashion, connecting users who are farther away from one another. The app allows users to connect anonymously through ‘Firechats’, which can host live group discussions of up to 10,000 people.
Still, no app is without flaws; security is still a pending issue, as the information on FireChat has yet to be encrypted – keep that in mind the next time you use this app at ElectricZoo or Coachella.