As Chennai battles with heavy rains and flooding, many people stuck in the city have turned to the Internet to post for help. While Facebook, Twitter, have emerged as popular platforms for people to post about their friends, family who are caught in the floods, others have pointed out that some who are stuck have no Internet access and can’t actually contact for help.
One such app that is being used is is FireChat which works without Internet access or cellular coverage. The app lets people communicate directly, without the need for a mobile network infrastructure. Users can create a public room as FireChat calls it and post messages, updates. Currently there are public rooms called #ChennaiRains, #Chennaiflooded, #Chennaifloods where people are details about the floods, rescue plans, etc.
FireChat claims it has been used during floods in Kashmir, the eruption of volcano Cotopaxi in Ecuador, and hurricane Patricia in Mexico.
FireChat, which is available on iOS and Android, uses ‘peer to peer mesh networking’, connects phones directly with one another using the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios that are already embedded in smartphones. It creates a network of connected phones to allow people to communicate.
To use FireChat, people just need to download the app on their phone and leave WiFi and Bluetooth turned on in their ‘Settings’ tab, even if no network is available. The phones will automatically connect with other phones nearby and create a new network that is owned by the people, the ‘Citizen’s Network’.