This gadget will keep your thumbs busy even when the cell towers are down.
GoTenna is a Williamsburg startup that makes a walkie-talkie-like cellphone accessory to allow people to text-message each other even when phone service is out, or in areas with no reception. The company’s founders want to help people communicate in the event of disasters and diminish reliance on Big Telecom.
“The future of communication is distributed,” said Daniela Perdomo, one of the company’s founders. “We’re making tools that reduce our dependence on centralized communication.”
Perdomo came up with the idea when she had trouble reaching friends in Red Hook, and on the distant island of Manhattan, after Hurricane Sandy. Cellphone providers had problems, and communication was completely cut off in certain areas, she said.
“The winds and rain just shut everyone down,” she said.
GoTenna connects to cellphones through Bluetooth and lets users fire off texts and location information through a radio signal that other GoTenna users can receive. It can send single messages, group messages, or broadcast messages so that anyone using a GoTenna in the area will get them.
In an open area with enough elevation, the walkie-texties can send signals as far as 50 miles. In the denser confines of Kings County that range is probably closer to one mile.
But during an emergency, when the lights are out and phones are down, it is important for people to be in contact with their neighbors, Perdomo said.
“In Red Hook when people couldn’t communicate with each other, no one knew who had which resources,” she said. “This would have allowed people within a neighborhood to communicate.”
She anticipates people using the gizmo in less dire situations as well. The devices are also good for hiking trips or large outdoor events such as musical festivals or the New York City Marathon, where traditional cell service often grinds to a halt, she said.
The GoTenna is currently being sold on the company’s website for pre-order at $149 per pair, and will start shipping early next year. The company does everything except for its manufacturing in the borough. The team hopes to one day use a factory closer to home than Mexico but says that, for now, it is too expensive. Making a company here is a real achievement, given all the financial and regulatory barriers, Perdomo said.
“We’re really proud to have started in Brooklyn,” she said. “It’s hard to do anything in New York.”
Black Girls Code, a group that tries to give girls of color a leg up in science and technology, is holding a panel discussion in Boerum Hill this month. The “Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” panel will feature women speaking about their experiences and careers. It will take place on Oct. 11 at the Young Women’s Christian Association on Third Avenue, and is free with online registration.
Brooklyn On Tech launched this week with a fund-raiser at Etsy Labs in Dumbo. The program is set to provide mentoring and extracurricular programming to 20 juniors and seniors from Brooklyn high schools, giving them the opportunity to meet tech professionals and helping prepare them to pursue higher education in tech fields.
Heritage Radio Network, the foodie internet radio station housed in famed, L-train-adjacent pizzeria Roberta’s, is teaming up with the Brooklyn Winery for a night of music, food, and libations on Oct. 16. “The Big Crush: A Celebration of Wine and Food Radio” will include a new vintage from the winery plus live music, a recording booth to capture stories about people’s crushes, and a raffle to benefit the radio station.
Brooklyn’s many tech meet-ups are meeting up in Voltron-like fashion on Oct. 9 at the Huge offices in Dumbo. The Brooklyn Super Meet-Up is being organized by the tech blog Technical.ly, and will give borough techies a chance to expand beyond their normal network — or just network.