Rising to the Challenge: goTenna
Superstorm Sandy knocked out wireless cell towers in its path, leaving millions unable to communicate when they needed to most.
Realizing the need for off-grid communication, particularly in the case of a natural disaster, siblings Daniela and Jorge Perdomo developed goTenna, a small communications device that pairs wirelessly with a smartphone using Bluetooth Low-Energy.
Consisting of an antenna, rechargeable Lithium-polymer battery, micro-USB connector, and a flash memory that can store hundreds of messages, goTenna devices are able to generate their own signals, allowing people to trade encrypted text messages with other goTenna users. They work regardless of whether a cell signal or WiFi is available, and can even be used in Airplane mode!
As one of 11 winning teams in NYCEDC’s RISE : NYC competition, goTenna will share up to $30 million with the other RISE : NYC winners to distribute its peer-to-peer communication system with Sandy-impacted small businesses across New York City. We spoke to co-founders and siblings Daniela and Jorge about the importance of providing connectivity to areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters.
Basic Facts About goTenna
Team: Based in Brooklyn, goTenna was founded by siblings Daniela and Jorge Perdomo in 2012.
With over six years of tech startup experience, Daniela leads the business side of goTenna as CEO, which encompasses all non-engineering aspects of the company.
As goTenna’s CTO, Jorge heads up the product team, which develops and refines goTenna’s technology. He previously worked as a data analyst and systems architect and he holds the patents that govern goTenna’s core technology.
Name of Winning RISE : NYC Technology: goTenna
About: goTenna enables essential communication (i.e. texting and geo-location sharing) regardless of central connectivity, increasing all users' ability to communicate, coordinate, and respond to an emergency.
Benefit: goTenna generates its own signal, requiring no cell towers, WiFi or satellites. It provides a portable and low-cost alternative method of communication that increases in effectiveness as more users join the decentralized network.
Technology Category: Telecom Networks, helping small businesses stay connected and operating even when traditional communication networks are down.
An Interview with goTenna
When and how did you get the idea for goTenna?
The inspiration came in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy when up to one-third of all power lines and cell towers were down in many areas of New York, cutting off access to WiFi and cell networks.
We thought there should be a way for people to connect on a peer-to-peer basis using the smartphones that they already have on them, no matter the situation.
What mechanics went into developing your technology?
We started working on goTenna in a serious way the week Sandy happened in October 2012.
By March 2013, we had working prototypes, and the company formed as a result of that first successful milestone. We finalized the development of the first product in the summer of 2014, which is when we launched it publicly to consumers.
What does your technology achieve?
goTenna develops decentralized communication solutions that serve the critical needs of those living or playing off-grid, whether by choice (e.g. hiking in a remote region) or by circumstance (e.g. a natural disaster).
goTenna empowers individuals and communities to stay connected on a peer-to-peer basis, redefining communication according to the need for it as opposed to the ability to access it.
What type of small businesses/buildings will benefit most from your technology?
goTenna can be useful to any small business that benefits from reliable, resilient communication between personnel. Additionally, small businesses can utilize goTenna within their geographic community to help each other with resource allocation and first-aid in case of emergencies or natural disasters.
How do programs like RISE : NYC support innovation and climate adaptive technologies like yours?
RISE:NYC is important in encouraging and supporting technologies like goTenna that have a myriad of applications, but at the core bolster local communities and businesses.
goTenna’s value increases when more and more people within range of each other use it. RISE : NYC will enable more businesses and people to utilize goTenna, increasing the public value of goTenna in New York City.
Learn more about goTenna here.
About the Rising to the Challenge series: Eleven innovative resiliency technologies are helping to build a stronger, more resilient New York. What are they and who are the companies behind them?
This blog series shares the stories of each of the winning RISE : NYC technologies and the impact they will have on businesses and communities in New York City. Read all profiles here.