Offline Connectivity

Our previous post on the must have apps for maritime workers included a list on both online and offline apps (for those of you who are still unsure, offline apps rely on no internet connection to function).

This got us thinking.What tips and tools are out there, that can maximise offline use? The answer is of course not straightforward, but with some 1) forward planning, 2) knowlegde of the offline capability of your smartphone and 3) a selection of offline apps, there are many ways in which to use your phone without having to rely on Wi-Fi access.

Offline First is a protocol used by many app developers and the principle is relatively simple. You develop your app as if it has no internet connection. For example, you enable users to save data locally and access is later. The Seafarers’ Trust’s own app, Shore Leave, is a case in point. Once downloaded, you are able to access app content easily without having to rely on good Wi-Fi connection.

For those of you with a Chromebook, the techies at Google have been working on making its cloud-based laptop platform as funtional offline as possible. Google now publish a help page listing all the tasks you can perform offline.

Finding Wi-Fi hot spots in the first place

wifi finder

WiFi Finder, available free on iOS and Android, will help you pinpoint the nearest available hotspot. It features over 550,000 free and paid locations in 144 countries worldwide. Users can filter by location and by type, even providing directions right to the available hotspot.

Maps and Travel

So, you are on shore leave, and want to wander into the local town but don’t have a clue where you are going, perhaps? As a starter, Google has just  rolled out better offline support for its iOS and Android Google Maps apps. If you know the port and country you are about to visit in advance,  Google Maps allows you to choose an area and then tap a button to download the mapping data to your phone, saving it for later use. As GPS technology requries no internet connection anyway, maps and navigation tools are perhaps the best examples of offline capability.

citymaps

CityMaps2Go (free on iOS phones) allows users to download maps for cities, provinces and villages and use offline. Whilst the maps are not as interactive as compared to an online map you still should be able to get your bearings and locate places of interest. With a 7500+ directory, CityMaps2Go covers a suprisingly large geographic area.

Communication

From speaking to family members back home, to keeping up to date with fellow seafarers and maritime workers, reliable communication whilst at sea is a vital component of overall wellbeing. With more and more seafarers now using Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to chat, offline communication is fast becoming topical. For example, Facebook allows you to create posts without an internet connection. They’re uploaded  the next time you connect.

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One of the hottest apps around currently is FireChat. Available for free download on iOS and Android, FireChat lets people hold conversations, even if they’re in a wireless Internet dead zone. The app uses the so-called ‘Multipeer Connectivity Framework’ which allows connections to be established through Bluetooth signals or Wi-Fi radios. Whilst the tech is itself a bit complicated to explain, think of FireChat as a hub-and-spoke model. For example, groups of people would be able to set up their own network by linking up with the one device that is actually online. FireChat extends the coverage of the internet as opposed to creating it out of nothing. With the rolling out of Apple’s iOS7 Multipeer Connectivity Framework,  advances in offline communication are now entering the mainstream of hardware design.

Alongside Google Drive, which allows you to store important documentation offline on the Cloud, to Spotify, which allows you to store tracks to play back any time, there are plenty of apps out there that provide important offline services. In order to maximise your offline usage, it is important that you remember three key points:

  1. Plan in advance – when you have an internet connection store your data so you can access it later.
  2. Know the offline capability of your device – there are tons of forums showing you how to use your smartphone creatively.
  3. Research and download offline apps that you feel may be of use.