There’s a ton of smartphone messaging apps out there, but they all need some sort of Internet or cellular network connection to work. Which is all fine and dandy, but as we’ve seen with emergency situations in the past, these networks quickly break down when too many people try to access them, or the infrastructure is swept away, as the recent horrible events at the Boston Marathon demonstrate.
Now an innovative new app from Hubski.com founder Mark Katakowski aims to remove the problem, and let people send one to many messages from their phone even if there’s no network connection available.
The Tin-Can app works by using the WiFi connection on your phone to send a message to a nearby handset, which then forwards the message to another nearby phone and so on. Kind of like a digital form of Chinese whispers. When you turn on Tin-Can, your phone looks for other Tin-Can apps running in the area.
If two Tin-Can apps locate each other, they automatically exchange the messages that they don’t share in common. As a Tin-Can user, you can choose to see all the messages arriving on your phone or only messages from those Tin-Can users you subscribe to. All messages are public, but at the same time there is no way to tell which message came from which phone.
Because the app is based on the relatively short range of a handset’s WiFi radio, it’s not really suitable for messaging over long distances, but for things such as conferences, demonstrations, festivals or sudden emergency situations such as the Boston Bombings, it can easily transmit messages by hopping from phone to phone.
The other cool thing about the app is it’s totally anonymous. The messages only contain the username, a time stamp and the message (max of 220 characters), and the app automatically deletes messages that are over 90 days old. Users can also instantly change their username as in IRC, which is great for user privacy.
You can find out more information about the app from the Hubski community or by contacting the small development team at [email protected]. It’s a very cool idea and we’ll be watching closely to see how it goes.