Open Garden  is adopting ANT wireless technology, which will be available in the new release of its flagship mobile app, FireChat. FireChat is the first “off the grid” mobile app that enables people to communicate for free, even if they do not have access to the Internet, a cellular network, or a data plan.

FireChat allows people and communities to create their own free communications networks thanks to its unique peer-to-peer mesh networking technology. In order to significantly enhance direct connections between Android smartphones, FireChat now uses the ANT protocol, in addition to Bluetooth and peer-to-peer WiFi, to let smartphones connect to each other to exchange messages and photos when offline.

With this technology, people  don’t need a phone signal or Internet connection to send or download messages — instead, it connects phones using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radio signals as long as they are no more than 200 feet apart. If just five percent of phones in a city use the app, the company says, then messages can travel through the mesh of off-the-grid phones to cross the entire city within a few minutes. 

ANT is an ultra low power (ULP) wireless networking protocol that enables direct connections between devices and can be found in everything from fitness sensors to apps and consumer devices, including over 200 million mobile devices.

Christophe Daligault, CMO of Open Garden sees Firechat as an enabler for mobile communication in most countries where people can barely afford to buy a smartphone, let alone a data plan or credits. 

“Unsurprisingly, more and more people are using FireChat in countries such as India, Malaysia, Mexico, and the Philippines. To enable free communications in these countries, robust direct connectivity between Android mobile devices is critical. This is precisely what ANT helps us accomplish.”

The app has been used extensively in countries when governments threaten to shut down cellular wifi such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Iraq, and Russia. It also has great implications for situations when conventional communication is down due to events such as severe storms or earthquakes and is also useful in situations like crowded concerts and sporting events. 

Off the grid technology is not new but it has been limited to a lack of range. The adoption of ANT wireless technology by Open Garden will take the concept further than before and this is an innovation that is definitely one to watch.