There I was, smack dab in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley and I was lost amongst a sea of wild horses and wildflowers. I had decided to veer off the horse trail I was on to do a bit of “exploring” and ended up being separated from my group. I somehow ended up miles away from where I began and was surrounded by packs of horses that looked at me like I was lost — they were right. I had no food, I had no water, and I had no cell phone reception. I was doomed.
Luckily, I managed to get back on the horse trail and reunite with the other riders, but not before I spent an excruciating three hours wondering if I’d be able to make it out of the mountains alive. The entire time I was out there, I was panicking. And the only thing I could think was, “None of this would be happening right now if I had cell phone reception.”
That was back in 2004, when the widespread use of cell phones was still in its infancy and wireless networks were not as robust as they are today. A decade later, 90% of Americans own a cell phone and cellular towers provide reception to every major city in the country. Unless you’re in an area where a lot of people are connected to a network or is very remote, you’ll usually have excellent coverage. But in those rare instances where you find yourself without reception, like I did on that day I veered off the horse trail, you can now create your own wireless network and not have to worry about finding a strong signal.
The goTenna is a new device that pairs with your smartphone and lets you communicate with others when you don’t have service. It doesn’t rely on cellular towers, Wi-Fi networks or satellites. Instead, the goTenna pairs your smartphone wirelessly using Bluetooth-LE, and as long as you’re within 20 feet of the device, you’ll have service. The only catch is that you’ll only be able to communicate with another smartphone connected to its own goTenna, but this makes it perfect for those times you’re hiking, camping or even at a music festival.
By using goTenna’s free application (available on both Android and iOS), users can send text messages or share their location from up to 50.5 miles away. And if you’re careful about using the device only when you need it and turn it off when it’s not in use, the battery will last up to three days. Bluetooth-LE, which stands for “Low Energy,” is also kind to smartphone batteries and doesn’t drain as much power as the old Bluetooth standard. Couple these battery-saving features with the fact that the goTenna is also weatherproof, and you have yourself a device that could potentially save your life.
- Send & receive text messages for free
- Share locations on detailed offline maps
- Instantaneous transmission within range
- Automatic message retry & delivery confirmation
- Individual & group messaging
- ”Shout” broadcasts to anyone within range
- Proximal friend map & location pinging
- Emergency chat
- End-to-end encryption (RSA-1024) & self-destructing messages
- Compatible with iOS & Android
- 2-watt radio
- Flash memory good for 1000’s of messages
- Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
- Micro-USB connector
- Bluetooth LE data interface
- Status indicator lights
- Nylon attachment strap
People have become so dependent on their cell phones that we sometimes find ourselves lost without them. The goTenna alleviates this problem and is a rugged, secure and, most of all, revolutionary way of communicating. If you’ve ever been in a situation like mine where your life literally depended on getting in touch with another person in your group, this is clearly a wise investment in your safety. And while the goTenna doesn’t allow you to make phone calls or update your Twitter status, it’s the first step in a new technology that can one day possibly replace traditional wireless networks. But until that happens, I’ll just have to stick one of them in my saddlebag. See you on the trail!