Thursday, September 29, 2016

Adventure Tech: goTenna Extends Backcountry Communication with New goTenna Mesh

Earlier in the year I took a look at an innovative method for staying in communication while in the backcountry called goTenna. This simple, but effective device, connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth technology, and allows you to send text messages and share your GPS location with others who are equipped with a goTenna of their own. In a sense, the device creates its own data network for use in places where shell service is nonexistent, and while it doesn't facilitate voice comms, I found it very useful for staying in touch nonetheless. Now, the team at goTenna is back with a new product, and while it works in much the same way as its predecessor, it has the potential to extend the range of the device much, much further.

Dubbed the goTenna Mesh, this new unit launched on Kickstarter yesterday. A bit smaller than the original model, this new device brings some interesting new technologies to the table that should make it more useful to travelers, backpackers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. For instance, the Mesh now operates on UHF radio frequencies, which have brought it's out-of-the-box range down slightly, but make it more adaptable to a wider variety of environments, including both the outdoors and interior spaces. Switching to UHF has also allowed goTenna to bring their product abroad too, opening it up for sale in foreign countries where the previous generation's VHF radio waves were not allowed.

But more importantly, as it's name implies, the goTenna Mesh brings "meshing" technology to users as well. This allows the device to relay data that is sent to it on to other users, thereby extending the range almost indefinitely. Where as the original goTenna simply blasted out the messages that it broadcasted to all other goTenna users in range, the Mesh can analyze the data, and then rebroadcast it to others too. In this way a message that is sent can potentially reach a recipient, even if they weren't in range of the original sender.

The first generation goTenna has a range of about 1 mile in urban settings and 4 miles in rural areas, although greater ranges can be achieved depending on elevation and so on. The goTenna Mesh has a similar range when used for peer-to-peer communications, with 1 mile in cities and 3 miles in the backcountry. But, since it has the ability to relay data, a message can hop from one device to the next, provide there are several of them working within range of one another. So while two Mesh devices might have a range of roughly three miles, three or four units working together could stretch that range considerably further.

When goTenna launched the Kickstarter campaign for the new Mesh model it was with the hopes that it would generate $150,000 in crowdfunding to help get the device into production. Just 24 hours later, the campaign has generated $132,000 and climbing. That means that the new product should begin shipping in December as expected, with a price tag of $179 for two units. Of course, a third goTenna Mesh is really needed to see the true benefits of this second generation model, but this is certainly a good start. Early-bird contributors can reserve their goTenna Mesh units for as little as $129 by pledging to support the Kickstarter campaign now however.

In addition to revealing the Mesh, the company is also launching a new service called goTenna Plus. Users who sign up for this plan receive additional benefits from the goTenna app that is installed on their iPhone or Android device, including improved topographic maps for sharing your location, tracking of speed and distance while out hiking, and even sharing your current location with a designated individual on a set schedule, much like a SPOT Satellite Messenger. goTenna Plus users can also take advantage of network relaying which allows a device that is connected to a cell network to pass along goTenna messages to other users in that way too.

goTenna Plus is normally priced at $29 for a year, but is currently available at an introductory price of just $10. Seems like a pretty reasonable rate to me.

Find out more about goTenna and all of its gadgets at

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