Happy New Year!
Like many of us, the end of December is a time to reflect on the cumulative accomplishments of the past year to see how much closer we’ve come to realizing our ambitions.
At Open Garden, our ambition is to enable access to knowledge and the global hivemind through creating apps for sharing Internet connectivity, promoting net neutrality, and cultivating community around decentralized and distributed technologies.
We’ve released three new apps – WiFi Opener, WiFi Hotspot, and WiFi Keychain. Together with our mesh networking application, we’re developing an Internet Connectivity Suite to keep devices connected to the Internet wherever they are.
Our user base has grown to over 3 million users!
Learn how Open Garden works in under 30 seconds by watching this fantastic cartoon we made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5Pz8wL-1Ys
Over the past year, we’ve added five excellent humans to the team: Zhuzun, Software Engineer; Jenny, Technology Evangelist; Andrew, Software Engineer; Radjiv, our technology Intern from France; Sandira, VP of Strategic Alliances; and Christophe, VP of Sales and Marketing.
In October, we won the Global Mobile Innovator’s Conference’s Global Startup competition out of over 300 participating startups!
We started a Meetup Group called Tech Garden SF: Decentralized and Distributed Technology and have held four successful meetups! If you live near the San Francisco Bay Area, join us at our next event to meet and learn from other folks interested in and working on decentralized technologies.
Not in the Bay Area? Start a Meetup group in your area! We’ve also launched an Ambassador Program to support the growth of distributed technologies in local areas, an offshoot of the series of Google Hangouts we had this fall with our community.
It’s been an exciting year for the team at Open Garden, and we’re looking forward to carrying the momentum into 2014: The Year of Decentralized Technology!
We find ourselves in the midst of an exponential growth in technological advancements and innovations aiming to solve the struggles associated with lack of sufficient infrastructure and the various strangleholds on certain communities and mediums. With an artillery consisting of software protocols, hardware schematics and the will to bring power back to the people, start-ups and hacker communities across the world are taking it upon themselves to work around the already existing unreliable systems by creating decentralized and distributed tech. Here at Open Garden, we see ourselves as one of these enablers of liberation by helping individuals share Internet access with others around them, actively developing new technologies along the same vein and generating discussion on similar concepts.
With that said, I predict such technologies are going to become the forefront of innovation in 2014. The more problems individuals face by centralized forces and infrastructure, the more intuitive this technology becomes.
Why should people be accessing the Internet from a single provider when sharing access is as easy as installing an app which makes it faster and more reliable? It’s becoming easier than ever to exchange payments directly and cost effectively and the sharing economy improves the efficiency of goods, homes, services. As the movement continues, these sorts of developments will allow neighbors communicating back and forth to have their messages sent directly to each other instead of to a tower miles away in between.
It is the start-ups and hackers who innovate around the flaws to reinvent how goods and services are valued. Centralized control that we are so familiar with will be replaced with decentralized and distributed networks giving individuals power and 2014 will be the year that this concept is made mainstream. So keep an eye out for developments in this field, especially those by Open Garden.
Last week, Open Garden went live on the Amazon AppStore. Kindle Fire/HD/HDX owners can now freely download and install Open Garden to keep their Kindles continuously connected to the Internet. These newer models of the Kindle, which run a version of the Android operating system, are ideal for use with Open Garden’s mesh networking app. While some models allow for 3G/4G data plans, these plans are often expensive – particularly if you exceed your data cap.
Open Garden overcomes these obstacles by automatically connecting to the Internet via your smartphone or laptop’s connection. The application is especially useful in homes with many devices connected simultaneously, as it combines the connectivity of multiple carriers and optimizes for offloading onto Wi-Fi.
“We’re excited to provide our mesh networking solution for Kindle users,” said Micha Benoliel, co-founder and CEO of Open Garden. “Just in time for the holiday season, they can use their Kindle to connect to the Internet whenever they need, turning their e-reader device into a fully-capable tablet.”
Download Open Garden on Amazon’s AppStore!
Open Garden, the San Francisco-based startup dedicated to seamless Internet connectivity, has just released WiFi Keychain, the fourth app in its Internet Connectivity Suite.
Our first app in this suite, the Open Garden Mesh Networking app, allows users to seamlessly share Internet connectivity across their mobile devices, and can be downloaded at http://opengarden.com. Open Garden is a mobile broadband network made up of peer-to-peer connections between devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets. We use the density of these devices to create a network and provide anybody with ubiquitous access to the Internet on the go.
WiFi Opener allows users to store the passwords of protected Wi-Fi networks with the community of app users. When in range of a shared network, WiFi Opener users are automatically connected. This app is designed especially for Wi-Fi networks in public places that are protected yet intended to be open, such as those at conferences, parks and coffeeshops.
Wi-Fi Keychain is the latest addition to this suite of Internet connectivity apps. WiFi Keychain keeps your Wi-Fi network information up to date across all of your devices. Rather than connecting your smartphone and tablet independently to each and every new Wi-Fi network you join, Wi-Fi Keychain lets users type in the password just once. The login information for the network is then replicated across all of that user’s Android devices, enabling automatic connectivity when in range of a registered Wi-Fi network.
WiFi Hotspot, another new app in Open Garden’s connectivity suite, provides users with a timer for their personal hotspot. Setting a timer for tethering helps to save on battery life, with the additional advantage of providing a much simpler interface for tethering functionality than going through the Settings menu.
“Just consider how much time is spent finding and typing in Wi-Fi passwords for each device you own, setting up tethering, and syncing between devices,” said Micha Benoliel, co-founder and CEO of Open Garden. “We have solved these problems with simple apps that keep you seamlessly connected from everywhere and from all of your devices.”
Last month, the Open Garden team went on a company retreat to Lake Tahoe, a majestic freshwater lake on the border of California and Nevada. Our aim was to spend some time together in a beautiful, inspiring and relaxing place. We spent three days hiking the mountainous trails surrounding the lake, making it to the top of a few quite splendid summits:
Once we reached the top – or something close to it – Micha bellowed “Opeeeeen Gaaaarden!!” at the top of his lungs, a call which reverberated admirably well, then proceeded to pelt us with snowballs.
Zuojun, Paige, Micha, Radjiv, Andrew, Jenny and Alessandro giving Firechat love.
In between hikes, the team made delicious home-cooked meals in the spacious cabin we rented out via AirBnB, played games of pool, enjoyed the sauna and took dips in the indoor pool. Our ‘retreat’ was far from pure leisure, however: when not engaging in the above activities, we were on our laptops responding to emergency communications from relief workers in the Philippines, brainstorming thoughts and ideas around the future of Open Garden, working on the soon-to-be-debuted new website, and coding a pool table simulation in place of the disheartening reality.
Zuojun, Jenny, Sandira, Micha, Andrew, Alessandro, Paige, Christophe and Radjiv squinting into the sun after a long, arduous journey up a mountain off the beaten path.
Several months ago, Open Garden announced it’s official acceptance of Bitcoin donations and a month later had an exhibition table at the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose. There is no surprise that the Bitcoin community understands the importance and relevance of mesh networking for peer-to-peer communication and Internet access. The Open Garden protocol and the Bitcoin protocol are nothing alike on the face but are rooted in the philosophy of decentralization and this is clearly illustrated in a video interview I did a few weeks ago with Andreas Antonopolous from Let’s Talk Bitcoin. We discussed several concepts relating to decentralized and distributed technology with the cryptocurrency at the focus of our conversation.
Since the popularity and price has risen substantially throughout the year, we’ve seen several meetups rise up for in-person Bitcoin trading in various cities around the world. I’ve been to the local meetup here in SF a few times which was taking place outdoors where data connections usually vary between devices. The meetup in San Francisco has since moved indoors due to the approaching cooler weather, however the importance of mesh networking can still be applied to supply better reliability for Internet access. At the Bitcoin 2013 conference, I was able to demonstrate accepting bitcoin donations to a wallet on a device without a direct connection to the Internet by using Open Garden.
In the following example, I tested both the Coinbase and Blockchain Android applications. Notice there is no direct WiFi or data connectivity on the phone, yet I was still able to send a Bitcoin from one wallet to the other by using Open Garden to connect indirectly to the Internet through a tablet connected to WiFi.
Not only can Open Garden enable sharing Internet connection between devices for trading currencies but it is also extremely useful for merchants that use a tablet for point of sale yet don’t have steady access to wi-fi. Simply using a personal data plan for sharing with the tablet using Open Garden would be all a merchant needs.
What other situations could mesh networking help in the exchange of Bitcoin? Has Open Garden helped any of your transactions? I’d love to hear your ideas and stories in a comment on this post, in an email or as a tweet!
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Nearly 10 million people, or 10% of the Philippines’ population, have been affected by typhoon Haiyan. 660,000 inhabitants have lost their homes.
Open Garden has responded to Gia Banaag, from the Office of the President of the Philippines, to help its population gain mobile connectivity.
Thanks to a simple app, Filipinos will be able to regain access to information and news such as the location of their loves ones, letting their families abroad know how they’re doing, as well as organizing relief efforts.
A short video shows the process of how to send the Open Garden app from one Android phone to another using Bluetooth when no Internet connection is available:
Filipino mobile users who still have an Internet connection will benefit from better and more reliable access, while Filipinos who do not have an Internet connection, or lost it during the typhoon, will be able to access the Internet through devices that do.
Open Garden does not require any configuration in a standard context and works completely automatically in the background. The more Open Garden enabled devices, the better everyone’s access. A much larger number of inhabitants will then be able to communicate and have renewed access to information.
If you want to provide more help to the Philippines CNN has compiled a list of resources.
The Global Mobile Innovator’s Conference (GMIC) announced that Open Garden, a new way to grow the Internet by enabling users to connect to each other seamlessly and share their Internet connection, is the grand prize winner of its Global Startup competition.
The competition is the culmination of a selection process in which more than 300 international startups participated. After the first round of presentations, Open Garden and Fleksy (a way-cool app that replaces your phone’s keyboard!) were chosen to go head-to-head in a final showdown. A panel of top Silicon Valley VCs, including DFJ’s Tim Draper, RBC Capital’s Mark Mahaney, 500 Startups’ Dave McClure and Mayfield Fund’s Tim Chang singled out Open Garden as the grand prize winner.
Connecting the next billion mobile devices to the Internet
With 3 million users worldwide to date, Open Garden is the first successful implementation of mesh networking technology made available to the public on a large scale. It connects nearby smartphones, computers, and tablets seamlessly to form a peer-to-peer network. Each new device that joins the network literally extends the Internet, with faster and more reliable connectivity.
“Over the next 3 years, 1 billion new devices will try to connect to the Internet. That’s not even counting wearables. The opportunity is huge. These devices will generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue for the entire industry – but only if they can connect to the Internet,” said Micha Benoliel, CEO of Open Garden. “If hardware infrastructure can’t make it on time, software can.”
Open Garden creates a software-based network by leveraging the density of mobile devices. People can grow their own Internet by installing the Open Garden app, enabling them to be on the Internet everywhere.
The company licenses its software and enhanced versions of the technology to:
Device manufacturers to differentiate their devices and provide their customers with better connectivity, speed and new services.
Mobile operators to make more efficient use of their existing infrastructure and sell more data, while improving their customer loyalty.
And corporations to improve the reliability and security of network connectivity.
The team at Open Garden thanks all who participated at the GMIC and the G-Startup Competition for the great honor!