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July 21, 2014

New Antenna Connects Smartphones without Cell Service

Everyone with a mobile phone has at some point experienced a dropped call, and whether it is the universe trying to conspire against you or not, it always seems to happen when you need it most. The problem is not as bad as it used to be, but there are still occasions and locations in which it happens. GoTenna, a Brooklyn-based hardware startup, is looking to eliminate this modern problem with its modified smartphone app-based approach to staying in touch.

GoTenna is a thin, two ounce wand that can be strapped to a backpack or belt loop, and connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth low energy (LE). Once you power on the device and slide out the antenna, you will be able to send messages and GPS coordinates from your smartphone to anyone that is connected with the same system.

Your smartphone has to be paired with the antenna, and has to be within 20 feet, so they can communicate. Using the free application the company provides for Android and iOS platforms, you can then type text messages or share your location. The antenna uses long-range radio waves (151-154 MHz) to send your messages to the intended goTenna(s), and they receive the message in milliseconds.

If you know anything about radio, then you are aware of the technology is limited by range, and there is no exception for the GoTenna. According to the company, it has a range of up to 50 miles, depending on the environment in which it is deployed. But if you are in the middle of nowhere or at an event with tens of thousands of people, you will be able to get in touch with anyone that has the antenna, all without a cellular network.

The application allows users to:

  • Send and receive text messages for free
  • Share locations on detailed offline maps
  • Instantaneously transmit within range
  • Individual and group messaging
  • "Shout" broadcasts to anyone within range
  • Proximal friend map & location pinging
  • Emergency chat
  • End-to-end encryption (RSA-1024) & self-destructing messages

The antenna has a two-watt radio with flash memory that is good for thousands of messages, and a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. It can be connected with a Bluetooth LE data interface or mirco-USB connector, and it can withstand the elements because it is water-resistant and dust-tight.

"The experience of using this should be the same as a messaging app on your smartphone, though it comes with a bit more juice. A GoTenna can last up to a year and a half on a single charge if it remains off, and its lithium-ion battery will last for 72 hours of occasional use," said GoTenna co-founder and CEO, Daniela Perdomo. 

Edited by Adam Brandt

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