Tin Can, a new mobile phone application, allows mobile phones to communicate with each other without cell service or connection to the Internet. According to developer Mark Katakowski, Tin Can allows users to contact other participating mobile phones within 100 feet. While this range appears limited, the relay capability is actually much larger, given that all recipients can relay the message to phones within 100 feet, so the radius of information becomes larger with each recipient.
This application uses Wi-Fi radio capability to connect users, but ultimately does not require any Internet connection. Tin Can is currently available for smart phones only but Katakowski hopes to expand its potential in the near future.
Tin Can has the potential to revolutionize how individuals in the developing world communicate with each other. In areas where cell and Internet service is both expensive and unavailable, Tin Can can connect individuals through basic communication and even data sharing, which is largely unavailable in many areas of the world. This innovation could prove especially useful in organizing civil society events or mobilizing large groups of people, a task often reserved for Twitter when available. Protest efforts, such as those recently occurring in Egypt and Turkey, could have benefitted from this technology. This technology highlights the capability of collective data sharing in times of crisis, as outlined by Patrick Meier in his 2011 Ted Talk.
Tin Can faces one dominant criticism: it could potentially enable the spread of viruses or malware and, given the source anonymity of mass messages, these malicious hacks are virtually untraceable. Katakowski is currently examining solutions to this problem and recognizes that this weakness prevents Apple from sponsoring the app at the present moment.
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