Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use Aura in flight mode?

Yes! It's sufficient to enable Bluetoooth. All phones allow to do so in flight mode.

Do I need an internet connection for Aura to work?

No. You need neither a SIM card nor WIFI.

What technology does Aura use?

Aura uses Bluetooth LE to find other Aura users around you. It remembers them for a few minutes (you can adjust that). This happens in the background and because if it's energy efficiency it doesn't impact your battery.

Does running Aura all day drain my battery?

No! Aura is built to run in the background all day. Field tests showed that it typically drains 0.1% of your battery per day. That's not perceivable. The reason for this very low consumption is that it doesn't access the internet and doesn't do any complex calculations in the background.

What's the range of my Aura?

Bluetooth LE has a range of 90-100 meters if there's nothing in the way. Depending on the nature of the obstacle it is reduced to much less. In a typical office situation with walls about 20m can be expected. People in the streets pose obstacles, too. Tests show that in a typical street protest situation 20m to 40m can be expected.

Bluetooth is often a hassle. How about pairing?

For Aura to work, Bluetooth has to be enabled. But at no point do you have to pair, enter any codes or in any way care about Bluetooth. Simply start Aura and you see ideas of those around you.

Is Aura a mesh network?

There is no routing or proxying of messages. Aura shows your profile and ideas to the people around you. If somebody around you likes one of your ideas, they adopt it. This way important ideas spread. In theory that takes longer than automatically routing messages like mesh networks do it. In practice it makes Aura more reliable and easier to use. Aura could be characterized as a semi-automatic mesh networks: Users have control over which ideas are spread and which are not.

How does authentication work?

Aura doesn't have the notion of an account. There is no password or public key infrastructure. Aura publicly shows your profile and idea to the people around you .

Are profiles and ideas encrypted in transfer?

The idea of Aura is that everybody around you can see and spread your ideas. Encryption requires authentication ahead of time. That would defeat the simplicity of Aura: Open the app and start spreading ideas around you. Communication with people you already know is an entirely different use case. Signal and Telegram are great tools to do that.

How does Aura fight the spread of hate?

Technology is not neutral. Contrary to what some huge social networks keep saying, the creators of a technology have responsibility for and impact on how and for what it's being used. The challenge with Aura is that filtering content would automatically allow to censor Aura. That remains to be the dilemma of freedom of speech.
But Aura is opinionated and firmly stands by its humanist ideals. Aura will work hard to minimize utility for white supremacists, fascists, mysogynists, anti-semites and xenophobes. Even if it means affecting other users. One simple yet effective solution would be to add political quizzes that all users have to pass to keep using the app. That makes it a bit more annoying for everybody but it's totally worth it because hate-spreaders are forced to engage with content from outside their bubble. There will be better ways because Aura is willing to fight fore humanism.

How is Aura protected against jamming?

The bad news: It is not. If somebody (e.g. authorities) send a jamming signal, there's nothing smartphones can do about it.
The good news: That's okay. When so many use Aura that police has to continuously jam demonstrations to suppress it, another use case opens up: Using Aura all over the city. Be it in buses or doing data grafiti using small Aura beacons all over the city. These little Auras are virtually impossible to jam and provide freedom of speech for ideas that would be immediately blocked/censored on the internet.

How is Aura protected against flooding with fake data?

Not really, users have to decide on their own what they consider fake and what not. That's the price to pay for freedom of speech. Building in a mechanism to censor bad content would automatically endanger freedom of speech.

How is Aura protected against intercepting/monitoring MAC addresses?

Modern Android phones automatically reset the MAC every few minutes to hours. Disabling Bluetooth immediately resets the MAC. Depending on device configuration there might be log files containing previous addresses that could be extracted using forensics. The risk for early adopters is minimal but this issue will be addressed in the future. Of course rooted Android phones can be set up to rotate and not keep track of MAC addresses.

Does Aura offer a panic button or plausible deniability?

Not yet but it's on top of the roadmap.

How is it different from Signal/Telegram/Threema?

Aura is not a messenger. It's a way to share ideas with people right around you. It doesn't have the notion of a user account or login and because there arer no servers, it doesn't need internet connection. In a messenger you have to add people you want to talk to. In Aura you simply start the app and see what's up around you.

How is it different from Briar?

Briar is an emerging encrypted p2p messaging platform. It's sophisticated and looks promising. At the risk of oversimplifying, Briar is like Signal without centralized servers. It typically operates over the internet but can fall back to Wifi and Bluetooth. That's pretty awesome because it has some advantages over messengers like Signal, Telegram and Threema. But it covers a similar use case which is messaging. That requires mutual authentication ahead of time. The idea of Aura is to work without that: You start Aura and see what's up around you.

How is it different from FireChat?

Aura was inspired by FireChat's technology but addresses a different use case. FireChat allows you to chat with people around you. The disadvantage is that neither you nor them can move if you want to keep chatting. Aura is not about chatting but about looking at other's ideas and adding them to your own Aura. For that it's sufficient if you're briefly in the proximity of another Aura user, you don't have to stay there.

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