iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity framework lets you communicate with people without an internet connection


FireChat, a new iOS app released this week, lets you chat with people nearby without the need for internet. For connecting two devices, the app uses a new iOS 7 technology called Multipeer Connectivity Framework instead.

The Multipeer Connectivity Framework lets apps communicate with other devices using infrastructure such as Wi-Fi networks, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth personal area networks. While these technologies are short ranged, their range can be extended if there are a chain of users, with each user being close enough to just one other user, so there’s at least one connection for every user.

This type of connectivity is called mesh networking, and its ability to operate without an internet connection makes it quite useful in various situations, as Cult of Mac notes:

[Mesh networking] can extend an Internet connect to a place where none exists — for example, to a hotel basement, cave or — if you live where I do (in Sonoma County North of San Francisco) to rural areas where cell tower connections are non-existent.

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.

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.

Apart from solving infrastructure related problems, mesh networking’s peer-to-peer connectivity can also be very useful in situations where the government is trying to curb communication by blocking certain messaging services. Since mesh networking doesn’t involve any “central” node, no government has the power to control or block communication over such kinds of channels.

AirDrop, the new way to send files in iOS 7 also uses the Multipeer framework to connect and communicate between devices.

The best part of course is that Multipeer Connectivity is available on most devices running on iOS 7, so apps can easily piggyback on this technology to create peer-to-peer networks for various purposes. If its adoption takes off, mesh networking has the potential to revolutionise communication, and Apple is well positioned to be at the center of this revolution.

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Categories: iOS 7

  • iPhone1604

    IV used it, it’s not as good as it talked about! You need bluetooth and some one near you with an internet connection or on bluetooth. It’s complicated and just like yahoo chat rooms that are filthy. It has some to little use, location base chat witch dosent work unless your in a 30 feet range or if more people are on it that range it widens.

    • iPhone1604

      I was to believe this app was a revolution lol it’s nothing close. If any thing it’s for poor people and it dosent work all that well, or kids that are grounded chatting with friends in the neighborhood. That’s even a stretch!

      • Gautam

        We are not trying to highlight the app but the iOS 7 feature, which we didn’t know prior to this. I think the tech is quite interesting.

        • iPhone1604

          The technology is great, but the uses are limited. Don’t get me wrong it’s awfully clever. Try the app for yourself LOL it’s nothing like it’s talked up to be

  • tenelitebrains

    This would be awesome at a festival like Glastonbury were the cellular networks are oversubscribed.

    • PK

      I had no trouble at Glasto last year. Having a charged battery was far more difficult.

  • Azarcases

    As of now the app is terrible I can only chat with random ppl around the world and I’m getting msgs in faster than I can read them the technology might be okay but it still has a long way to go

    • Jason

      Yeah, I’m thinking its true potential would be when it’s used for things besides messaging

  • Ashvin Savaliya

    Continuously crashing on ios 7.0.6….I think still need to work more in this app….

  • jdm8

    It has crashed three times in six minutes.

    I think it shows promise. The global network needs sub-categories, right now it’s local or global, with nothing in between.