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Apple iOS 7: Most Underrated iOS 7 Feature That Could Alter the Way We Connect to Internet

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By Pavithra Rathinavel | March 26, 2014 12:09 AM EST

Apple has recently introduced a new protocol/technology with its iOS 7 update called "Multipeer Connectivity Framework."

In the previous week, an article was published on the new iOS app called "FireChat" from a crowd-sourced firm Open Garden. FireChat app is a messaging app that allows the user chat with another user in the vicinity within 30 feet "without Internet connection." This is achieved by creating a "mesh network" between users and the Internet with the new protocol "Multipeer Connectivity Framework" in iOS 7.


Customers and Apple employee pose with new Apple iPhone 5s phones at the Apple Retail Store in Manhattan, New York

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You can read more on the FireChat App, here

So What is Mesh Networking?

According to Extremetech, "A mesh topology is where each node in the network is connected to every other node around it. So, if you take the home network topology, it allows the smartphone, laptop, and Xbox to talk directly to each other, so you have a mesh topology there."

Cult of Mac said if this new technology becomes mainstreamed it could have phenomenal effects on the way people connect to the Internet. This app became an instant hit with Apple users.

How Does This Work?

The Multipeer Connectivity Framework uses the smartphones' Wi-Fi and Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections to let the user chat and share data without Internet connection. This technology also enables users to chat even when they are far from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth range from each other. This is called "wireless mesh networking."

Other advantages include:

1. Connectivity when in basement/elevators

2. Connectivity in remote locations like caves/mountains/subways

3. Even when in rural areas where there are no cellular towers

Another example in the lines of "FireChat" would be "AirDrop" (again introduced in iOS 7) uses Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to send files from one device to another without the need to connect to the Internet.

Future and Major Advantages

Using the multipeer connectivity (mesh networking), if one of the devices is connected to the Internet, it can share its "Internet bandwidth" with any other device located nearby which has a multipeer connectivity enabled. This device can successively share its Internet connection with many other close-by devices. So this multipeer connectivity can be enhanced to provide Internet connection to large crowds of people gathered at one place where cellular connections are weak.

For example, Melbourne Cricket Ground can accommodate over a 100,000 people. Imagine the amount of emphasis on the cellular tower nearby the stadium. Also, people may want to use data connection in their own different ways. This adds up the pressure on the near-by lone cellular tower. This is why we tend to see slow data connection or no data connection at all in crowded places.

This is the area where mesh technology comes handy so long as the crowd is well within the range of each other. They could all share the Internet connection if the people at the end of the trail have Internet connection in their devices.

Technically, if one person can connect to the Internet then that person could share his connection to the people around within a certain range. Also, this connectivity could be very important for the first respondents during natural disasters/terrorist attacks when the cellular network is blocked.

The Flip-Side

As a prerequisite, everyone in the mesh network must be located within the allowed range of each other. Although this technology is in nascent stage. With FireChat App, user must be within 30 feet of each other.

Networks gobble up battery. So it is not very clear as to how much this technology would affect the battery life of a device.

Also, there is no information on how much bandwidth a mesh network can carry between nodes.

Importantly, cellular network carriers are skeptical about this new technology. AT&T has blocked Open Garden's mesh networking Android app from the Google Play store. The reason quoted was unauthorized tethering.

With so many unanswered questions, mesh networking still looks like the next-big-thing in the wireless technology. Once again, Apple is the pioneer in giving hope to this new technology.

Also Google's Sundar Pichai mentioned mesh networks in SXSW when talking about wearable computing.

What do you think of this technology?

To contact the editor, e-mail:

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Customers and Apple employee pose with new Apple iPhone 5s phones at the Apple Retail Store in Manhattan, New York
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