Something is happening in Hong Kong. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against the Chinese government’s restriction, which prevents the semi-autonomous city from holding elections in 2017 that are not under Beijing’s measures. The protests are strong: the police have even used the use of tear gas and the Chinese government has blocked the internet signal so that no mobile can communicate.
But even without internet, the protesters have been able to communicate and coordinate their actions without problems. How is it possible? The answer goes through Firechat, an instant messaging client that is now demonstrating how its decentralized protocol can be a headache for administrations.
Chatting without any internet connection? Of course yes
And how can FireChat establish a means of communication without the internet? We already talked about it half a year ago in Applesfera (in the specific case of iOS): the application uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas to search for other devices around you, creating a network of nodes that can communicate with each other forming a “local network” automatically.
In this way, even if there is no data signal, if 1,000 people meet in the street they can chat with each other without problems if each one installs FireChat. The result is that although the protesters cannot surf the internet at least they can organize among themselves and send quick notices as required. And if someone is connected to Wi-Fi in the area, they can always send whatever they need via FireChat to others.
And right now we are talking about its use in demonstrations where freedom of information is deprived, but protocols like these can save lives in catastrophes or serious accidents where several victims are involved. Like when a train gets stuck in a tunnel, for example.
– Stanislav Shalunov (@shalunov) September 28, 2014
This, combined with FireChat being available for iOS and Android, has resulted in a boom in app downloads in Hong Kong. All the protesters who had smartphones have been able to coordinate, spreading the word of the FireChat utility directly at the site of the protests.
The protesters of the so-called #OccupyCentral in Hong Kong have been responsible for making this method of communication known to the whole world. FireChat has been around for a long time, but now is the time is starting to show its potential. And it is very easy to cut the internet signal in one area, but it costs much more to force Apple and Google to remove an application from their App Stores for political reasons. Or so I hope.
We will have to take a note for when we need it around here. Be it FireChat or any other service that allows us to communicate in this way, it is that type of application that although we hardly use it, it is always advisable to have it installed on our smartphone.
Image | Pingwest
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