Open Garden brings Wi-Fi routers into its crowdsourced broadband mesh

For the last year, Open Garden has been inviting strangers to share their mobile broadband connections. It launched apps that let Android smartphones, tablets and laptops form ad hoc mesh networks, which can coordinate their connections to the internet. Now Open Garden is bringing a device to its crowdsourced broadband network: the Wi-Fi router.

This week, Open Garden launched a new app in Google Play(s goog) called WiFi Opener. The app allows businesses and consumers to register their password-protected Wi-Fi networks with the Open Garden community so any member can access it.

Co-founder Micha Benoliel

Co-founder Micha Benoliel

Open Garden CEO and co-founder Micha Benoliel – who will be speaking at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference in October – said he’s a big proponent of open wireless, but that doesn’t mean Open Garden believes that every network should be wide open and unsecure. There are plenty of cafes, conference centers and public venues that have hotspots meant to be public but are still password protected for security reasons, he said.

WiFi Opener is meant to bridge the gap between wide-open Wi-Fi and public-yet-protected Wi-Fi, Benoliel said. Instead of going to coffee shop, hunting down its network SSID and inquiring about the network password, the Open Garden’s mesh networking app stores any password shared by WiFi Opener users, automatically connecting devices into the network. So if you’re running the Open Garden app on your phone, you don’t have to log in — the app does it for you.