It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s a balloon!
How often don’t we hear the phrase: “Everyone is on the Internet”? While this may be true in our Western countries, this definitely isn’t true for other countries. Actually, two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t have Internet access yet!
Could this become a thing of the past? Say hi to Google’s Project Loon!
Project Loon is being developed by Google’s semi-secret (probably the reason you might not have heard about it yet) facility called Google X, which is dedicated to making major technological advancements.
What is Project Loon?
Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters (Google, 2014).
Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? But how does this exactly work?
The balloons communicate with specialized Internet antennas on the ground. An antenna on the ground ‘talks’ to a balloon in the sky. In turn, the balloon ‘talks’ to neighbouring balloons and then back to the ground station, which is connected to the local Internet provider. Thus creating a network in the sky.
Let’s get a better picture about the revolutionary balloons.
The balloons are so-called superpressure balloons filled with helium. They stand 15 metres across and 12 metres tall when fully inflated. The balloons are equipped with solar panels to keep it running, while also charging a battery for use at night (Wikipedia, 2014).
Furthermore, the balloons can travel by using the many layers of wind in the stratosphere. Since every layer of wind varies in direction and speed, the balloons can go where they are needed simply by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel.
Since we’re not here to simply advertise new technologies, let’s try to get some food for thought in!
After all, Google is still a company. So what’s in it for them? How can they benefit from this seemingly philanthropic idea?
Assuming this project succeeds (which, I know, is a big assumption) and Google manages to provide Internet access to third world countries, they become world’s biggest Internet provider. Furthermore, Google’s search engine as well as their other products (e.g. Gmail and YouTube) will have to deal with massive increases in usage.
Extending our scope beyond Google, imagine the possibilities for access to education and information in third world countries! People can receive information about health and hygiene without the presence of a doctor!
What is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Whether Project Loon will be as philanthropic as it seems or Google is just thinking about massive stacks of money, it sure is an awesome revolutionary idea!