Sunday, June 16, 2013

Project Loon: Google’s Project to connect the World

The world is a big place, and let’s face it, we’re going though a lousy era: wars, economic problems, riots, governments that suck, corruption, and a ton of other shit that is directly affecting our development as human beings and as a society. But let’s leave that behind, today we’re talking about Project Loon, by Google.

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Project Loon is Google’s take on world Internet and how in today’s era is still unreachable to a lot of people, or in some case, their connection is below average. And since land limitations is the most common problem for any kind of connectivity, this innovating idea is actually pretty nice, balloons.

As Google says:

Balloons, with all their effortless elegance, present some challenges. Many projects have looked at high-altitude platforms to provide Internet access to fixed areas on the ground, but trying to stay in one place like this requires a system with major cost and complexity. So the idea we pursued was based on freeing the balloons and letting them sail freely on the winds. All we had to do was figure out how to control their path through the sky. We’ve now found a way to do that, using just wind and solar power: we can move the balloons up or down to catch the winds we want them to travel in. That solution then led us to a new problem: how to manage a fleet of balloons sailing around the world so that each balloon is in the area you want it right when you need it. We’re solving this with some complex algorithms and lots of computing power.

TL, DR: Balloons solve many problems with current Internet access: cheap, affordable, easy to get and build, it can get to higher than an antenna and can be moved to other areas. It will be sun-powered, and the wind will take care of moving them. Of course, there are ways to control them (direction, speed), so there won’t be balloons flying without control.

The launch event already happened and there are currently 4 Loons up in the sky, with 50 testers around the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. You can see some pictures over here and some others over here. And since many people love specs, bitches love specs, here is some info about these balloons (quoting from the event pictures):

    • The test is in New Zealand because, apparently, the wind isn't quite erratic causing issues in the trialing.
    • The Loon has 3 ARM processor computers inside it, each with a different purpose.
    • Loon software is written in C++.
    • The Loons are constantly monitored from a base station, and have GPS on them for location, and management communication.
    • The Loon uses both the 2.4GHZ and 5GHZ spectrum; 2.4GHZ is used between the Loon and nodes on the ground (users), with the antenna on the bottom, the 5GHZ is used between the Loons and is the 3 antennas on the top.
    • The connection between the Loon and client is symmetrical (In other words, same speed download/upload.)
    • They were saying user data was double encrypted; 1 of these is used as a VPN, where the user is VPN'd all the way to the ground station (ISP).
    • The battery is about 10x more power than your average laptop battery. And it has built in heating (for climate changes).
    • Planes are something like 10KM from the ground, while the Loon is 20KM from the ground. Regardless, the Loon still has this for Civil Aviation regulations for when the Loon is going up in the sky, or finally coming down.
    • The Solar panel is fixed, in other words doesn't move towards the best spots for sunlight. Apparently, the solar panel generates 100Watts.

Either if this is a success or a complete failure, at least they’re trying.

Via | Google Blog

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