It's official: Project Loon is in the works. Brainchild of Google, the hope is to connect the entire world to the Internet. This is an amazing feat - especially if you think about all of the people in the world that don't currently have the Internet! But how exactly will they do it?
In a recent blog post, Google explains their plans for the project. Let's look at the project and how it works, and start by looking at why the world needs this in the first place.
The (Almost) World Wide Web
While it's true the Internet is also called the World Wide Web, the truth is it's anything but. In fact, only one out of three people living on Earth have access to a fast yet affordable connection to the Internet.
It's easy to see why: vast mountain ranges and dense jungles provide terrain obstacles. In the majority of countries in the southern hemisphere, it costs more than an individual can make in an entire month for Internet connection!
Google To The Rescue!
Google is hoping Project Loon will solve this problem. But how will it work? Well, it relies on a simple technology. So simple, it doubles as a child's plaything: balloons.
On Google's blog, the company announced they believe a "ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds" can deliver Internet connectivity to those locations that lack it. They've actually built a test-network of balloons, flying above us at twice the altitude of commercial passenger planes. These balloons transmit Internet access to those below at the 3G speeds we are used to on our wireless networks.
The Future Of Project Loon
The company hopes this system of balloons will be able to connect all areas that are remote, highly rural, and currently underserved. And why the name 'Project Loon,' anyway? Well, you've heard the term "crazy like a loon," right?" It's Google's way of saying "Hey, I know this sounds crazy, but..."
Besides bringing those people affordable Internet services, Google is also looking to provide a helping hand during natural disasters. Their network of balloons, beaming Internet down to those below, will allow communications to continue despite what occurs in Mother Nature.
How It Works
These balloons are remote-controlled and solar-powered, cruising along and propelled by the winds in the upper atmospheric layer. But doesn't this mean they will constantly be in motion? How, then, will the Internet be brought permanently to these underserved areas instead of blowing away in the wind?
Google is planning to do some tweaking to the project, forming "some complex algorithms and lots of computing power" in order to get the balloons to remain in a specific, predetermined area.
Project Loon's pilot program is underway, currently in New Zealand. The company is searching for partners for the next stage of the process. Who knows: maybe the next time you are in a rural area, a place Internet connectivity was not possible, you will actually be accessing the Internet from a balloon!