If you’ve ever been on a hike, out of the country, or at a crowded concert with no service, goTenna is aiming to be your connectivity solution. The hardware accessory combined with an application for both iOS and Android says it will allow you to create a local network that works reliably. The network is based on a group of people each having a goTenna stick connected to the iPhone. The video from the company, below, explains it well:
The antenna connects wirelessly to your phone over Bluetooth, and allows you to text message other phones connected to a goTenna over vast distances. The company tells us, depending on conditions, that the antennas can communicate up to 50 miles away. Your mileage definitely will vary though depending on mountain ranges, nearby bodies of water, and nearby obstructions such as buildings.
The hardware itself looks small enough to carry in a large pocket or to clip onto a backpack. Unfortunately, the battery life is not fantastic for long hiking trips: the company says that if the device will last 30 hours in continuous usage mode. With moderate daily use it will last 72 hours, and with no use it will last approximately a year and a half. You can re-charge the goTenna over micro-USB, but I don’t think this will be too helpful in all environments.
goTenna explains a bit more about how the product works here:
The device pairs wirelessly over BluetoothLE to the goTenna app (available on iOS and Android), allowing you to send and receive text messages and share GPS locations on beautiful offline maps via low-frequency radio-waves over relatively high range (up to 50 miles). The goTenna app has automatic message retry and will let you know when your message has been delivered to the intended recipient. You can create your own networks with goTenna, with the ability to designate specific individuals or groups as your message recipients, as well as opt into public conversations with others within range. Not only does the service offer end-to-end encryption and optional self- destructing messages, enabling users’ privacy, thanks to goTenna’s advanced networking protocols, no messages will interfere or overlap with each other.
As of now, the goTenna can only power an in-house application for text messaging and sharing map coordinates. The company tells us that it is working on a Software Development Kit so third-party developers can integrate the hardware in apps for the future. The app has a few functions: you can start a group chat with nearby goTenna users, you can message privately with a user of your choice, and you can share and view map coordinates. These features are shown off in the video and screenshots above.
goTenna is launching its campaign today on its website, allowing users to pre-order a two-pack of antennas for $149. The devices are said to ship late in 2014.