Forget having directions, tickets, or our checkbook with us. Our lives now seem to revolve ensuring that Wi-Fi will be there wherever we may roam so we can open our digital wallets, Google map it, or have our tickets scanned. When there is no Wi-Fi, our biggest fears come to life.
There is hope, thanks to some inventive technologists and entrepreneurs who have designed a solution that goes beyond data and mobile network requirements. (Yep, you could all text without a data plan.)
Yes, some of us have iMessage if we use iPhones and iPads, which means we can forgo that unlimited texting plan on our smart phone bill. However, we are all still slaves to Wi-Fi or have memorized how fast our data plan is chewed up with every ping.
But, another iOS app is rapidly changing how teens are texting through their Apple devices, and soon it will do the same with those with Android systems.
Enter Jott, an app that has started a revolution among school-age kids that can now get online without relying on a Wi-Fi or a phone network. Unfortunately for parents and teachers, this means that they can now text and Instagram to their heart's content during the school day despite not having--or affording--a data plan. Even on an iPad or iPod touch.
Mesh Networking: The Steve Austin of the Networking World
Jott relies on something called mesh networking, which is poised to be bigger, stronger, and faster than what we thought was the end-all solution. It is a way to wirelessly connect devices without requiring central organization or authority, such as an ISP or phone company.
Instead, it is a fluid network where the smart phone itself becomes the cell tower. Mesh networks are resistant to interference because they automatically reconfigure themselves and create dynamic connections for multiple routing and a more robust connectivity experience.
The concern over privacy and the lost art of anonymity can be regained thanks to the security of mesh networking. There is no Big Brother watching you like there has been with a central authority behind the internet curtain or Wi-Fi window. Besides the cost savings, regaining this confidentiality in our communication is a valuable feature.
Beyond teenagers who must text at any point in the day, apps like Jott and other companies like FireChat and its Open Garden app, are realizing that there may be a much bigger opportunity that moves us beyond the world of Wi-Fi.
Closing the Digital Divide
Hard to imagine, but it's entirely possible, especially when these mesh networks are stronger and open up a world of communication to a much larger audience.
This audience includes those countries where the digital divide has excluded them from the new global soapbox and social network community.
Just think what a mesh network could do for places like Haiti or Nepal after the recent natural disasters? Or, better yet, take it to the next level and provide it to large countries that are still struggling to build the infrastructure for connectivity. This could help literally millions of people in places that cannot afford data plans or that lack any type of Wi-Fi service.
Even here at home in the United States, apps like Jott can help schools and communities circumvent a reliance on Wi-Fi and avoid costly data plans that eat up our paychecks. That enhanced connectivity can generate new ways to learn, interact, and engage with each other, doing its part to shrink the gap between those who have access and those outside the new virtual community where most of us live, work, and play.
In this way, mesh networking can essentially be deemed both a technological marvel and a democratic platform. That's because it is self-organizing and self-directing by the community that developed it, allowing for a more independent means of connecting.
Teenagers Take Charge?
What Jott found was that their app was readily adopted by many, but the majority came on board when those already using it invited them. From there, it has grown exponentially. Applying that to the world stage, Australia's Serval Project, Egypt's Open Mesh Project, and the Open Technology Institute's Commotion Wireless Project have all struggled to be heard and accepted, but that soon could change.
This may finally be a case where teenagers will lead the charge and create a revolution heard 'round the world to spread adoption of mesh networking. And, you can breathe a sigh of relief that your kids will no longer eat up your data plan - or complain about the lack of Wi-Fi.