While it’s easy for us to believe that almost everyone is on the Internet, that’s not the case. According to Google, two-thirds of the world does not have Internet access. They are planning on changing this statistic with balloons. That’s right, I said “balloons.”
In June 2013, Google is starting Project Loon with an experimental pilot in New Zealand. The project will use a network of solar-powered balloons that ride the winds in the stratosphere to connect people on the ground with the Internet by use of special antennas. The balloons will be steered by Google engineers on the ground from a central command station by raising or lowering their altitudes to take advantage of changing wind currents.
Computer programs will be used to determine what changes are needed to keep the balloons in contact with the ground and each other. The concept is much like cell tower technology, where signals are handed off from one balloon to the next then to and from the ground, with the extra complexity of moving targets.
The reaction in the tech world is mixed. Some think the idea is crazy, but I’m rather excited about it. I’ve visited cities that provide free Internet service to all their citizens using a network of cell towers and the like. It’s nice to be able to be in the park and have Internet service.
Google envisions this technology helping other parts of the world in many ways, including education and medicine. If the students can’t come to the teachers, the teachers will go to them. The same will be true for healthcare professionals. In my mind, this technology could make all our communications more reliable because the balloons are closer than satellites and can be deployed more inexpensively.
What do you think? Has Google gone loony? I would like to hear your thoughts. Use this link to learn all the details about the project and to follow their progress.
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