What is stopping me from buying a goTenna for each member of my family and evangelizing this product

#1

I want to jump all in on goTenna, but I can’t knowing that for the foreseeable future, this will remain a locked down platform.

For the foreseeable future, I can’t create my own compatible non-goTenna device that can join the goTenna network.
For the foreseeable future, I can’t use a goTenna without the official app.
For the foreseeable future, I can’t flash a goTenna with custom firmware.
For the foreseeable future, if I were to buy a goTenna, I’d lock myself into the goTenna platform and tie myself to this company.

It also doesn’t help how damning the privacy policy is.

So, what’s the point of an ad-hoc network if it’s so highly centralized? I want to fantasize about a mesh network covering North America, freeing us from the tyranny of cell towers, and this company has the greatest chance of realizing it. But this will remain a fantasy until we have open hardware and free software to achieve it.

I found my way here from another forum when a staff member described goTenna more as a “proof-of-concept” than anything else.

I’m not trying to disparage anyone or belittle the efforts that have gone into this project, I just want express my sentiment.

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#2

Having worked on several open source projects, I’m never surprised that people think of open source in a positive way. What does surprise me is that people always tend to think of it as a universal solution to whatever you see ailing with any specific piece of soft- or firmware. It’s not. In some cases, it’s just a preference for a developer to do so. In a case like goTenna Mesh, there are significant issues that tend to limit the feasibility of applying open source to a project. In the case of the GTM, there are two big ones that are specific to it, regulatory and hardware.

Keep in mind that most open source projects are entirely internet based. So long as it fits within the very few limitations the internet presents, open source is viable, even preferable. The problem with applying that the GTM is that the GTM is a radio and is thus dependent on fitting within the FCC regulatory framework. To do that, the radio side of the equation here is locked down and I cannot foresee this changing barring the FCC significantly revising its “rules of the road” limiting output power, frequency choice, the permanence of the antenna’s attachment and a number of other specifically defined aspects of the design that are part of the GTM’s certification for use. And it’s not just here in the USA that this applies to, it’s the 40-some other nations that all have a regulatory dog on this fight.

The other major aspect of this is that it involves hardware. This is also subject to FCC compliance, so won’t rehash what was just written other that to say that certain aspects of the hardware are also the way they are because of the FCC’s requirements. Even if the software and firmware on the GTM became open and public and you could hack away to your heart’s content, then what are you going to run it on? Do you plan to build and operate your own radio? Unless you’re a ham, that’s not really possible - legally. And the GTM doesn’t use ham freqs, either, so even that is a problem for someone trying to imagine this as an open source project.

But there’s more. An open source project generally goes it’s own way, because that’s possible as well as desirable. When you’re talking about a mass of users trying to communicate with each other, then compatibility is as important as diversity. The cool open source hacks you are perhaps anticipating making are really only valuable to the extent that they begin by being compatible with the existing system. That also tends to limit what’s possible, because many of the issues that are often brought up in such comments, such as wanting more than 6 hops, allowing Shouts to hop, etc, would directly impact a mesh network’s functionality if implemented willy-nilly. I bring this up because it seems that you’re already thinking about nationwide meshing as being limited by the way that goTenna chose to handle this, thinking the 6 hop limit is an arbitrary number when it’s actually pretty much a technical limitation taken to ensure network reliability and functionality. If you haven’t read it yet, Ram Ramanathan’s “Understanding Mesh Networking, Part 1” and it’s Part 2 are very helpful.
https://inthemesh.com/archive/understanding-mesh-networking-part-i/
https://inthemesh.com/archive/understanding-mesh-networking-part-ii/

The issues that concern you have received a lot of discussion here already, so you will probably find some deeper reading here of benefit to gaining the context necessary to fully appreciate why things are the way they are and what is possible in the future. Look through things and then you may have a more nuanced grasp of how goTenna works in practice, versus the idealized space some wish it were in. The SDKs that are available allow a great deal of latitude for open source implementation, also, to the extent that is possible. There’s still an enormous amount of flexibility in functionality available, so don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here when it comes to goTenna Mesh.

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#3

I looked through the privacy policy. What is damning about it? It looks pretty standard as a privacy policy for a combined set of applications, a website with forums, and a company that may use third party companies to promote their products (e.g., sending emails on goTenna’s behalf).

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#4

I guess I understand why GTMs can’t be easily modifiable, but I still can’t buy into a platform with vendor lock-in.

After searching around this forum, I found this post which highlighted my biggest concern: non-interoperability.

If it turns out that goTenna is just one in 10 companies trying to build the exact same thing (a crowdfunded mesh networking radio targeted at hikers, with a flashy website displaying accolades from various tech or outdoors blogs, and support for offline maps and group chats, but absolutely no interoperability), then I don’t see why I should buy into one platform.

To be honest, I’m kind of broken. Revolutionary mesh networks continuously come and go, and every year, Battle of the Mesh holds another event.

In the three years since I discovered PhillyMesh, I feel like nothing has changed.

We still have at least five startups developing the same walled-garden ad-hoc network. We still have at least five different GitHub projects that inevitably get abandoned.

I’m sorry if this turned into a rant. I’m just tired of getting attached to this ideal and never seeing any progress. All I want is for someone to prove everything I just said wrong. I just want get excited about the prospect of mesh networking once again.

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#5

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#6

I think this is for all the analytic tools they’d use on the website. I don’t think the apps have any such functionality.

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#7

Perhaps “damning” was a bit extreme. Sorry.

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#8

I just wanted to know what was in there that seemed to be onerous. Especially nowadays, it pays to be wary of things that threaten privacy. I’m not involved with goTenna, I’m just a user. Thanks for the clarification, though! :slight_smile:

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#10

If you really want a roll-your-own approach I think there are people that use LoRa modules to make wireless mesh networks. I can’t recall any specific projects off the top of my head, but I would imagine googling around you could find some. There’s also amateur radio, which isn’t mesh networking, but does allow standards-based digital communications. You do need a license, though.

I think it also depends on what kind of problem you’re trying to solve. I personally feel goTenna Mesh units are really awesome for an easy to use, almost instantly available mesh network to send text messages to other GTM users. I don’t think it’s meant to be a comprehensive mesh networking solution for all forms of communication. I also don’t think there’s anything to be gained, for the companies anyway, by developing units that are interoperable with other protocols from other companies. Due to the limited bandwidth, the low power requirements, security, etc., I feel it kind of requires a specialized approach, and adding in tons of interoperability would just degrade the product’s intended performance.

Those are my opinions anyway. I do agree that there are aspects of GTMs that aren’t ideal. But like Mike said, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Or, if other products release their own APIs, you could always look at ways of bridging the networks together information-wise.

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#11

There are a lot of us out here thinking along the same lines. After a few days of research, it does look like it’s down to LoRa or goTenna, for me. Having scoured Google and YouTube, I didn’t find any LoRa communications (messaging, chat, SMS-like) projects that were farther along than tests with breadboards via the terminal or multi-broadcast web-based apps. There are at least 3 github projects seemingly abandoned since 2017 promising to add features. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time and money to DIY the whole thing from scratch on LoRa, so I’m leaning goTenna.

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#12

This is my problem. I would be willing to spend my hours playing with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis running OpenWRT, but I won’t considering that I’d have to expect others to do the same. And I won’t pledge my allegiance to any commercial solution that makes mesh networking easy and affordable, but lacks interoperability or any incentive to ever attempt interoperability.

Until goTenna, Garmin (the InReach developers), and Open Garden form some sort of “Mesh Networking Consortium,” I don’t foresee any change.

Until then, we’ll see keep seeing new startups every year. The most recent one happens to be the overambitious VolkFi.

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#13

As @MikeL said, the legal aspect saps the human energy from a lot of this. There’s a lot of that energy around APRS among HAMs, but they seem to have an above average antipathy toward encryption. Of of course, those bands prohibit encryption, so it’s hard to tease it out. And also, APRS/HAM prohibits commercial activity, so there’s another level of complication.

Libremesh (based on OpenWRT) is the only other project I’ve found that’s interesting, but where I live (65°N) it’s hard to get batteries to even supply power at LoRa / GTM levels, let alone WiFi. Libremesh is similar to what Philly Mesh uses, but has a fairly flexible firmware builder based on OpenWRT 18.06.2 to get one started more quickly. Notably, raspberry pi seems to be missing from the builder.

In any case, I live in an area with no power or communications grid. It’s satellite, GTM, HAM, DIY, or ravens (even pigeons freeze).

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#14

It’s a product. There’s no requirement that you “pledge allegiance” to anything.

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#15

What I mean is that every commercial solution has vendor lock-in. If I buy a GTM and everyone I know buys a GTM, I’m locked into the goTenna platform. I can’t ever buy a GoHeart -a very similar product- and
and expect to be able to use it.

This is my biggest issue: if I buy one or the other, I’m putting all my eggs in once basket.

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#16

Well, if you did go with goTenna, at least you’re choosing the solution that isn’t vaporware. You’ve otherwise got the choice of a bunch of projects that seem destined to be dead-ends or already are deadends - a handful that show promise, but aren’t quite to off-the-shelf stage. Ones that are turn-key consumer products that you can buy and use off the shelf are virtually non-existent.

Through the various SDks released so far, goTenna has also made a fairly significant effort to open up the parts of the project that are flexible and offer promise through allowing developers access to build a wide range of interfacing products. Yeah, it’s not exactly what an idealized open source project would be, but it’s way more than many other organizations allow or encourage.

As for interfacing with other platforms, the tools are most likely there to do that - if you desire to, just look at the many threads here that discuss various aspects of how to make that work. You certainly won’t have anyone insisting you “can’t ever buy” Brand X. I would even argue that implementing such cross-platform technology offers significant security advantages and even avoids exactly what you want to avoid, putting all your eggs in one basket. Of course, this assumes you can find a Brand X that is worth cross-platforming to from goTenna Mesh. Right now, that’s not exactly a given.

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#17

Another one not yet mentioned is Disaster Radio:
https://disaster.radio/

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#18

I don’t know what’s involved with the goTenna firmware, but other projects which are commercial/closed, but also kinda sorta don’t worry about hacked open-source versions can be wildly successful. LineageOS on Android, OpenWRT, et cetera. Nice way of having one’s cake and eating it too, perhaps.

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#19

I have just three questions. If/when the answer to all three questions is “yes,” then I will be likely to buy a GTM.

  • Can a GTM connect to other similar devices?
  • Can other devices, not affiliated with goTenna, easily connect to the goTenna Mesh network?
  • Can a GTM function using a third party app?
  • Could goTenna be compatible with a certain non-iOS/Android smartphone should it not be delayed until the end of time?

I added a fourth. I don’t expect the answer to it to be yes, but if it is, then I know what I’m getting for my upcoming birthday.

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#20

Not sure how consumption by ultimatum works, but give it a try, I guess. Just my own opinions here.

  1. I think that’s up to people that want it to develop. The SDK’s seem to provide the means, although I am not a programmer and am in no position to evaluate the exact state of that other than there are a whole bunch of threads here you should read through where people are working on that. Ultimately, I think that depends more on the growth of suitable hardware that would make carrying through with such a project viable.
  2. & 3. Yes, again, documented implementation of integration into a snowmobile situational awareness system. Another is an app that glider pilots use for the same purpose that requires no separate hardware IIRC. Then there is the iOS Mesh Developers Tool Kit that offers a wide range of possibilities in building interactive systems based on goTenna Mesh. This includes building in your own encryption in some cases, if that’s to your taste.
  3. Hard to say what will work with stuff from the future.

All in all, I think you’re maybe disappointed there’s no turn key solution for what you seek here? My wife tells me I should learn more about programming when this happens to me, instead of wishing. I’m too old for that, mostly, but if you’re younger, go for it. The tools are there and people are building stuff, but it’s still early enough in this technology that it’s still roll up those sleeves time.

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#21

I am not sure what this thread is about. Do you need the capability of gotenna mesh? Do your friends and family need it? If the answer is yes then you can get it. If the answer is no then do not get it. Look for other solutions and see if they fit your needs better. GTM probably never will connect with a non-GTM device because there will probably never be another device like the GTM. Quite frankly, when I found out about GTM I was surprised anyone was able to get a product like this off the ground and sell enough to begin setting up a mesh network much less make any money doing this.

I’ve been a licensed amateur radio operator since 1976 but not all my friends or family are interested in getting licensed even after the morse code requirement was removed.

Realistically GTM is the only viable and available solution today to provide emergency communications with my friends and family. GTM is the only viable and available solution for communications in the areas we go hiking or biking where there is no mobile phone signal. So for those reasons we have the GTM as I have not seen a reasonable, no license required alternative that is available for sale today in an easily consumed package/software combination most people can figure out how to use.

If you want to wait for interoperability for devices that do not exist then keep waiting and let us know how that works out for you. My guess is gotenna will have new hardware out before we see a device from someone other than gotenna. Creating a device like the GTM is not trivial and many have failed. I’d rather join the mesh with the company that is winning because that mesh is the one that will have the best chances of working.

As for software @MikeL points out you can use non-gotenna written applications or write your own using their SDK. For us the gotenna app works out of the box and does what we need.

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