16 June 2015

“Loon for all”

This famous tagline from Google’s Project Loon is creating quite a buzz these days. Kudos to Google X for taking up a project that aims to bring "balloon-powered Internet" to isolated areas of the world, once again proving that Google is way more than just a search engine or a mobile device company.

“Balloon powered…what?”

The project aims at deploying balloons that float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather; carried around the earth by winds, they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired directions. By using special antennas attached to the buildings people will connect to the balloon network. The signal will bounce from balloon to balloon, then to the global internet back on the earth

Need for this project?

Google’s done an amazing job by summarizing the idea behind this project in this small video

Project Loon Pioneers

"Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world's population does not yet have Internet access," Google said. "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."
Project Loon began with a pilot test in June 2013, when thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island and beamed Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The pilot test has since expanded to include a greater number of people over a wider area. Looking ahead, Project Loon will continue to expand the pilot, with the goal of establishing a ring of uninterrupted connectivity at latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, so that pilot testers in these latitudes can receive continuous service via balloon-powered Internet.

Charles, a Project Loon pilot tester, connects to balloon-powered Internet for the first time.

Obstacles to “Loon”

May be one of Google’s famed moon shots, project loon faces it’s biggest issues that are grounded here on the earth. Not just a major technical feat for Google but also a huge political undertaking; to be a success it’s going to have to take a deep dive into international relations, one which isn’t going to be so easy.
This is so because Loon is no ordinary network, Google aims at building a network that knows no borders. Not only aimed at implementing in every country with underserved internet population, but coasting from continent to continent basically making it a service provider above the clouds.

What's In It for Google?

"The company would need the cooperation of governments which control the airspace above their countries," Sterling said. "And given the recent NSA revelations, some countries might be suspicious that this would subject their citizens to U.S. surveillance. However, longer term that's probably not an issue."
Sterling noted that Project Loon is also an example of how Google, more than most of its corporate peers, aspires to solve big problems on a global scale. Of course, the more Internet access, the more people can access Google services.
"One question I would have is how to keep the balloons aloft at the requisite altitudes and avoid aircraft collisions," Sterling said, "but it appears they've solved that problem."