How Google Plans to Use Balloons for Providing Internet Access to Remote AreasIf you’re a big fan of reading the informative tech updates, then surely you’ll enjoy reading this amazing tech development related to internet. Internet connectivity is a blessing which is often taken for granted. It’s a bitter reality that we are among the very few people who have access to the web. Many remote areas still don’t have good quality and cheap internet access, or any access at all. This is mainly due to geographical transmission issues, that is, it is either too difficult to get fiber-optic based internet in some places or land forms block wireless signals. Keeping in view all the benefits of internet, real-time access to information and unlimited supply of knowledge, why should we (or people living in urban areas) be the only ones to benefit from it?
Thankfully, a new project by Google is in the works and is already being tested in a few areas. It’s called “Project Loon”. The idea is pretty simple and clever – providing internet access via balloons. According to Google, two out of three people on earth don’t have access to the web. Project Loon aims to solve this problem with balloons that provide internet connectivity to developing and underdeveloped nations. The balloons offer speeds up to (and even faster than) normal 3G internet. And what does Google has to gain? Well, many of the people who don’t have internet access today would click on a Google ad sooner or later.
The idea is to send out helium-filled balloons into the stratosphere, which is the layer of atmosphere ten km above the earth’s surface (twice as high as airplanes fly). The winds are constant up there, and that’s how the balloons will maneuver around.
Attached below the balloon is an array of solar panels for powering and charging the equipment. The wireless unit connects with other balloons floating nearby in the stratosphere, and also with a base station on the ground which is connected to the internet. This creates a network of balloons that communicate together and have internet access (mesh networking, redefined).
Anyone willing to connect to the ‘balloon internet’ on the ground just needs to install the specialized Loon internet receiving antenna, and that’s it. Every balloon has a parachute on top, which can be deployed when the balloon is brought back to the ground for maintenance, or repair in case there is a malfunction. Moreover, the balloons don’t roam about aimlessly in space, there is an entire ‘mission control’ that monitors their movement. According to Google, this makes use of complex algorithms and lots of computing power.
Project Loon remained an internal “Google X” project for about 2 years, until now, when Google decided to test it for real. So far, the balloons have been deployed and tested in certain areas in New Zealand, a few parts in Africa, and also in California, USA. The first person in New Zealand to get internet access via Project Loon was a farmer, one of the 50 locals of that area who signed up for a project they didn’t have any idea about. Pretty soon, more people in the area got connected to the web – something they have been waiting for some time!
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