Say hello to Google's Project Loon - a project that aims to provide Internet all over the world via a ring of balloons floating in the sky, about 20 kilometers above the ground. It's not April 1 and Googler's at Google X Labs are damn serious about this crazy idea. What they propose to do is equip each of these balloons with sophisticated transmitters and receivers so that they can communicate with each other and also with the ISP and Internet subscribers on the ground. Each home will need a special antenna mounted on the rooftops to receive the signals. The project will allow rapid penetration of high-speed Internet all over the world at a very economical cost. We'd assume that deploying & maintaining an array of large number of balloons in the stratosphere is arguably cheaper than laying out optic fiber lines. Google Fiber engineers might want to keep a closer eye on Project Loon.
The project however, is in the very initial stages, like the Google's driverless car; says the team. Google's engineers have already built the system prototypes and it's similar to current generation of 3G connections (or a bit faster). The bigger challenge is to maintain the connectivity among the ballons and the ground stations because the ballons wil constantly drift. Google's built complex algorithms to ensure that the movement of balloons won't affect the network and everyone stays connected.
The balloons and the accompanying electronic devices will be powered by a combo of wind & solar power. The antennas on each of the ballon are very different from our regular cellular or Wi-Fi antennas and are designed to work only with Project Loon.
Wired reports that the Project Loon began a little over two years ago. The engineers began working on polyethylene balloons which can carry the total payload of 22 pounds to stratospheric heights. A pilot program being carried out in New Zealand at Canterbury has about 50 testers and have launched 30 balloons in the last week. The balloons stay up at a height way above the normal heights at which airplanes fly so they don't interfere with flying machines and their communications.
We're totally excited by what's cooking up at Google. There's no doubt that this is going to be a huge engineering challenge and a project we'd definitely love to follow. We're quite sure that if the project reaches a commercial stage and actually starts powering Internet connections worldwide; NSA's job would be a lot easier - and we won't be surprised that every 20th ballon in the air will be NSA's.
Do let us know your comments, thoughts and opinions about Project Loon. In the mean-while, we enjoy the blue skies while they last.
PS: We think we found the origin of these ideas. Check out following hilarious video on how cloud computing and mobile communications 'work' (or supposed to work in future).