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GoTenna has developed a 6-inch-long antenna that connects to iPhones and Android phones via Bluetooth low energy. The antenna then transmits the data to other GoTennas through proprietary protocols, at 151-154 MHz. You can send text messages up to 160 characters as well as share your location on offline maps.

The gadget is available for preorder at $150 for two devices, since it takes two devices to form a peer-to-peer network.

It uses the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), an unlicensed personal radio service in the 150 MHz band. The goTenna is dependent on FCC approval and is currently undergoing FCC testing. If it doesn’t pass, money would be refunded, says the company.

According to the company, you can send & receive messages for free:

  • Share locations on detailed, offline maps (also for free!)
  • 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 devices

When cell towers and wifi aren’t available, goTenna makes the phone you have in your hand useful. CEO and co-founder Daniela Perdomo told GigaOM that GoTenna’s range is limited only by the horizon, or up to nine miles in open environments. In a heavily wooded area, the signal would travel a shorter distance, but still about four miles. A goTenna can only be paired to one phone at a time.

The part-95 radio services (FRS/GMRS/MURS) is available for unlicensed use in the United States. It is intended for short-range local voice or data communications.

The 150 MHz VHF band, used by the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), propagates better outdoors. The 450 MHz UHF band is used by the Family Radio Service (FRS) has a maximum output of 500 mW while the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS uses the lower 7 channels of FRS, in the 462 MHz range, with a maximum of 5 watts ERP. It requires a valid GMRS license, but propagates better in buildings and urban areas.

In Portland this Saturday cargo biking was utilized in the Disaster Relief Trials. Cell phones were turned off. Cyclists used paper maps and pedal power to move supplies.

Riders were required to haul 100 pounds of cargo over a 30-mile, obstacle-strewn course. In the more family-friendly Replenish Class, riders will be required to carry one passenger on a 15-mile “post-disaster household supply run.”

The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management and Multnomah County Emergency Management agencies were on-site at the Oregon Museum of Science to track the riders via radio. Representatives from the FEMA Region 10 staffed checkpoints.

Maybe next year goTennas and smartphones will enable real-time tracking and messaging.

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