Almost 20% of the US population (about 60 million Americans) live in rural areas where mobile reception is weak or nonexistent. In times of crisis, these Americans can't rely on the internet to communicate with loved ones or receive new information. This is why being able to interact offline is so important.
Even if you live in a more urban area, networks get congested or go down. A simple protest can cripple a system if thousands of people, each with a phone, are crowding a single area. In those situations, you need a way to send messages that doesn't rely on Wi-Fi or mobile networks.
Bridgefy is an app that facilitates conversation with friends, family, and strangers without the need for an active internet connection. Instead, the app uses Bluetooth to send either encrypted or unencrypted messages — in a way, it's a lot like a high-tech walkie talkie.
The app is free to use and works on both Android and iPhone. Use the link below to download and install the app on your phone.
Open the app and follow the prompts. The app will ask you to create a username, which is a necessary evil since the alternative would be to require you to verify your phone number before you could log in, and that would leave a paper trail.
Bridgefy will request access to Bluetooth, GPS, and your contacts — provide it all three. Once you reach the main page, enable the GPS (or Location Services for iPhone users) and Bluetooth sensors.
There are three main tabs: Contacts, Chats, and Broadcast. Contacts will list anyone in your address book (if given permission) who also has the app installed, as well as nearby users. Chats will list any active conversations. Broadcast lets you send messages to all nearby Bridgefy users, whether in your contacts or not.
If you wish to chat directly with one person, switch to the Contacts tab. If you wish to talk to them offline, they need to be close by, which the app indicates by placing them under "Nearby contacts." The app uses Bluetooth to communicate offline. However, to compensate for the limited range of wireless standards, Bridgefy uses what it calls "Mesh Mode" to extend coverage.
To send a message to someone beyond 30–100 feet limited (depending on your phone's Bluetooth sensor), Bridgefy turns nearby users into a bridge between you and the recipient. The message is encrypted, so these "bridge" users can't read the message. The message is relayed between devices until the intended target receives it. With this feature, you will be able to communicate offline up to 660 feet away.
As long as you see the "In range" symbol next to their name, your message will be offline. Conversations out of range will use data.
The other significant feature of Bridgefy is "Broadcast Mode." This tool is perfect for protests or natural disasters where there is chaos, and traditional means of communication are not properly suited. With Broadcast Mode, you can send messages offline to any users with 660 feet range, even if they are not in your contact list. These messages are unencrypted by design so anyone can read.
To use broadcast mode, switch to the Broadcast tab. On Android, you will need to select "Select Broadcast mode" first (on iOS, you will jump right into the chat). Write a message, and any phone nearby running Bridgefy in this mode will be able to see the message.
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