Offgrid Preparation goTenna Mesh Launches on Kickstarter
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Today, goTenna announced its newest product, goTenna Mesh, a mobile device that allows users to securely message each other using mesh networking technology completely independently of any network infrastructure like cell towers or wi-fi.
In RECOIL OFFGRID Issue 14, we reviewed goTenna's first product, which allows you and your buddies to text each other using your smartphones paired with goTenna devices. Using radio waves, messages are transmitted directly from one goTenna device to another. You can also track and share your position on maps. We found it to be a cleverly designed product with many potential applications for those concerned with preparedness, whether in an emergency or for planned events and situations.
The new goTenna Mesh is unique in its implementation of mesh networking versus pure point-to-point transmissions. The original goTenna transmits a message from user A to user B, and if user B is out of range or otherwise unreachable, the message can't be delivered — this is point-to-point communication. Mesh networking, on the other hand, automatically and privately relays messages from user A to user B whether or not they're in range of each other, by hopping across any other goTenna Mesh devices that might be between them.
It stands to reason then that the overall reach of a mesh network depends on how many people have compatible devices. At first, if user A and B are the only people with goTenna Mesh devices, then they'll have to be within range of each other to send and receive messages. But as more people in the area get goTenna Mesh, user A and user B can text each other from afar by bouncing messages from one mesh user to another until it reaches the intended recipient. This is a big deal for a consumer-level product, as similar capability is typically only found in the likes of expensive military systems.
We spoke to goTenna CEO, Daniela Perdomo, who told us, “Most consumers don't know what a mesh network is. But your audience will probably appreciate it and how much of a community benefit there is to meshing. As more goTenna Mesh devices get out there and more people carry them around, the whole mesh network becomes more powerful.”
One thing that's consistent across all goTenna devices is their focus on data, not voice. So you can pass messages back and forth, but you can't have a real-time voice conversation like a walkie-talkie. This was a key design choice by the company; Jorge Perdomo, co-founder of goTenna, explained, “Our original concept was to do text only, not voice. There are a lot of advantages to text — it’s asynchronous and more efficient, you know if your message is received, and you have a log of everything. It also allows us to radically reduce cost, size, power, and weight requirements. And we can handle more users.”
goTenna Mesh is smaller than the original goTenna, with a little less point-to-point range — typically up to one mile in congested areas and up to three miles in open terrain, according to the company. Users can send messages to one another as well as to groups, with delivery confirmations like you've grown accustomed to on your iPhone. All communications are encrypted end-to-end, and any hops along the way on other users happens privately and completely in the background. Also, goTenna Mesh uses frequencies that allow the company to sell it around the world.
goTenna Mesh will retail at $179 for a pair, but can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter for as low as $129. Units are expected to ship later this year. The price of the original goTenna has been lowered to $149 for a pair.
There are no on-going fees unless you opt to subscribe to the company's new premium service, goTenna Plus. For $29/year, you'll get access to topographic maps, trip statistics, network relays into traditional SMS messaging systems, automated location tracking and sharing for trusted contacts, and group delivery confirmation receipts. To entice you to sign up, goTenna is offering introductory pricing with the first 30 days free and a discounted fee of $9.99 for the rest of the year (after the first year, the subscription reverts to $29/year).
goTenna Mesh product specifications: