Sometimes two startups were just meant to be with one another.
You can make that case for crowdsourced mesh-networking company Open Garden and over-the-top IP communications provider TextMe, which plan to announce an alliance on Friday.
Here’s the problem: TextMe turns devices that weren’t intended to be phones into phones. Its downloadable clients for the iPod touch, iPad(s aapl) and Android(s goog) tablets bring text, voice and video chat capabilities — all linked to phone number — to what were previously data only devices. Those devices depend on an internet connection, but in most cases are only capable of receiving Wi-Fi signals: Being able to text and talk doesn’t do you much good if there’s no network connection to be found.
Open Garden has created an app that allows consumers to share their connections to the internet through a Wi-Fi mesh – sort of a utopian community that works together to ensure everyone gets the best possible connection. However, for Open Garden to really get going, it needs scale. The more devices its client is loaded into, the more broadband options are available to everyone.
So, TextMe and Open Garden have linked their apps. Starting this week anyone downloading the TextMe app to an Android device (it already has 8 million installs to its credit) will also be given the option to download the Open Garden software as well.
When the TextMe app is active — but there is no direct Wi-Fi connection to be found — it will activate the Open Garden client, which will seek to establish a peer-to-peer mesh connection with other nearby Open Garden-enabled devices. If successful, TextMe will be able to text and call freely using another device or PC’s cellular, Wi-Fi or wireline connection.
Right now most people use Open Garden (it has 2 million installs to date) as a way to link their own devices together, allowing their various gadgetry to take advantage of an optimal shared connection, but Open Garden founder Micha Benoliel said the goal is to achieve the scale necessary to create truly massive crowdsourced networked By partnering with company’s like TextMe, Open Garden can reach that scale.
This might sound terrible unfair if you’re a smartphone user suddenly giving up your 4G connection to a bunch of freeriding text-happy tablet users, but Benoliel said you have to change your mindset. No one is truly unconnected, so everyone will have the opportunity to share their connection at some point whether they’re logged into a coffee-shop Wi-Fi network or connected to a home broadband line. Eventually, though, Open Garden to plans to introduce controls that will allow users to limit how much bandwidth they give up.