Open Garden 2.0 Arrives

It was good to hear again from Open Garden. Last week they announced version 2.0 of their multi-hop, crowdsourced networking software. Those of us who attended TechCrunch Disrupt won’t soon forget their Battlefield prowess and technical chops. After the event, I had a chanced to chat with startup’s co-founder Micha Benoliel to learn more. After they went public beta last year, they’ve since been busy refining their ideas and making good on some of the concepts Benoliel had discussed with me.

Back when Sandy hit our area, I was scrambling around trying to regain Internet access after TvB’s Comcast cable connection was severed. In a moment of weakness, I signed up for Verizon’s hotspot service for my brand new HTC Droid phone–an extra $10 per month. Since then I went about using my Verizon hotspot whenever WiFi for my MacBook was out of reach in the course of my daily wanderings.

In the back of my mind I knew I didn’t want to continue paying a tithe to Verizon. I briefly explored the free Bluetooth tethering as an alternative to the WiFi hotspot. I gave up– Verizon did not make this easy.

And then 2.0 came along. I downloaded the new version onto my MacBook and my HTC Droid. After some initial glitchiness–I think I needed to reboot my Mac– the Open Garden promise began to be realized.

First off, OG takes care of all the Bluetooth pairing headaches–it seems to get around this somehow–so I didn’t really have to go into some of the config panels and then wait and wait for the devices to register themselves. So far so good.

The other impressive wizardry OG accomplishes is that it automatically finds a path to the Internet. As I write this I am at Starbucks using their WiFi internet connection. To simulate an oversubscribed WiFi scenario where you can’t get in, I turned off my Mac’s wireless connection. And Open Garden then hopped its way to my HTC’s 4G Internet by travelling over a Bluetooth pathway. After I restored my MacBook’s AirPort, the connection magically fell back to WiFi.

With this new release, Open Garden has become a lot better at utilizing the crowd’s bandwidth. With what they call channel bonding, and which old-timers might refer to as inverse multiplexing, Open Garden uses several paths to the Internet to create a fatter pipe. In theory, if a bunch of us in an ad-hoc OG community have multiple independent connections to the Internet–4G or WiFi or cable or …– then their clever software chops up a packet stream and send it out as separate rivulets over each of the connections. I didn’t get to try this out, but that is one of the key features that I think will make Open Garden spread its roots among users.

They seem to have done a good job good so far getting their software out in the world and therefore making random Open Garden communities more of a possiblity. According to the Google Play stats I looked at, their software has been downloaded between 500,000 and 1 million times in the last 30 days.