Image [cc] Preston Rhea

We live in an extremely interconnected world. A very fragile interconnected world. We are so reliant upon that connection that when it stops working, we stop working. That’s why when I saw Mike Elgan’s article this weekend called “How an Under-Appreciated iOS7 Feature Will Change the World,” I suddenly realized that we may be on the edge of a interconnected world that is no longer vunerable to the ISP server going down, or a tractor cutting a network cable in Nebraska and causing Internet connectivity going down in Texas. The feature in iOS7 is called Multipeer Connectivity Framework (MCF), and it is based upon Wireless Mesh Networking (WMN).

The idea is pretty simple, but the results can (eventually) be something spectacular. Right now, the only app that I found that has utilized the Multipeer Connectivity Framework is the one that Elgan features in his article, called Firechat. At this time, the app is pretty a basic chat app that allows you to see “Everyone” that is chatting on the app, using the normal chat server. But the advanced (and eventually cool) feature is the “Nearby” function that picks up those using local bluetooth or WiFi connections. It’s not just point-to-point connections, but point-to-point-to-point…. One connection tethering to another, and then another as long as the chain of connections remain linked. It might not be much right now, but given time, and the massive amounts of WiFi and cell connections currently available, it could become a new version of what we concider the Internet.

Here are some “practical” examples of what advantages a MCF network could do:

  • Emergency connections during power outages or natural disasters
  • Local communications set up for festivals, conferences, or community events (where cell towers tend to get overwhelmed)
  • Network and Communications networks that exist even when governments block ISP or Internet services for political reasons
  • Networks in poor or rural areas that are not served (or well-served) by Internet Providers

There is a lot of potential in this new feature found in the iOS7 upgrade. As Wired magazine noted back in January, It’s Time to Take Mesh Networks Seriously, And Not Just For The Reasons You Think. We have stepped into a new world… we just don’t know it yet.