And not in the dystopian sense of a populace rising up against an overbearing, repressive government (although that certainly plays out here as well). No, this is taking the form of how the protesters are managing to communicate with each other.
You see, when a government (in this case, China) can block off things it doesn’t like (it’s not called the Great Firewall of China for nothing), you can’t necessarily rely on your cellular or wifi networks to get communications through, especially if it’s in a popular messaging app. So, you get creative. And that’s where something like mesh networking really lives up to it’s promise.
Frankly, it’s a scene right out of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. In this case, it’s a real-world app called Bridgefy that’s doing the heavy lifting. It relies on Bluetooth connections to send messages along. If your recipient is within normal Bluetooth range, it’s quick. If they’re further away, well, it just bounces along the mesh network – device to device – to get it where it needs to go. This pivots how we normally think of mesh networking (usually wifi) and gets it to an even more localized point.
According to this article over on Forbes, downloads of the app have grown 4000% over the last 60 days. This shows how popular the app is, with it’s modes of private messaging between people, or simply broadcasting to those users nearby. There’s a part of me that wishes something like this didn’t have to exist, but there’s another part of me that is intrigued by this. Yes, it’s proving quite useful in Hong Kong, and you could see it being useful in the event of a telecom grid crash (inadvertent or not), so this is an app I’ll likely check out myself. If you want to learn more, and check out an interview with Bridgefy’s co-founder and CEO, give the Forbes article a read. bridgefy.me