The Device That Sends Texts Without Service Just Got Better

GoTenna Mesh is a tiny, pocketable device that lets users communicate with each other even when cell service isn’t available.

If you’ve been keeping up with HBO’s tech world comedy Silicon Valley, then you’ve been introduced to a futuristic idea: a decentralized Internet that exists in the connections created by the devices we all already have in our pockets all the time. Richard Hendricks, the pro coder who develops this technology in the show, dubs it “the Internet of the future.” But the thing is, peer-to-peer networks aren’t a work of fiction, and a company called goTenna has already created one with a product called Mesh.

Mesh isn’t exactly like the Internet in Silicon Valley, but it does allow users to send texts and access GPS coordinates without cell service, enabling communication and access to critical information that can be crucial in tricky situations. The kicker is, and this is true for Silicon Valley’s fictional network too, it relies on the availability of other adopters of the technology to work. If the receiver is far away then a message is relayed, privately, through the goTenna devices that bridge the gap. This is called a “hop.”

Today, GoTenna is updating its software to make the device even more functional. The new additions include an emergency beacon that can be used to alert all Mesh users within range that help is needed, providing them with crucial information such as your name and blood type. (Unlike other rescue devices, this function doesn’t rely on satellites to transmit.) It also allows for the access of offline maps, even when you don’t have your Mesh with you. These are welcome features given that Mesh’s capabilities position it well for use remote areas of the backcountry.

One of the most significant upgrades though is the expansion of the number of hops that a message can make between users from three to six. This is a beta feature in the new update, but it doubles the range of the system and increases the practicality of using it as you would a regular messaging device.

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