Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Google Ready to Move Internet Access to the Clouds

In the latest twist on cloud computing news, Google stands ready to take high-speed internet access to the next level with a full-scale launch of Project Loon next year.  If the project meets expectations, Google may have an airborne flotilla of high altitude balloons providing internet access to areas of the globe underserved by standard wire connections.  Not only that, the balloons may just provide faster and more reliable access than we get here in the UK.

According to Google, the Loon Project has successfully completed test runs of the high-tech balloons even while upgrading and developing the technology over the last several years.  The new system involves high atmosphere balloons equipped with enough technology to be incredibly useful.  Each balloon, which experts say can remain aloft for as long as 187 days, is equipped with:

·        an altitude control system
·        flight computer and GPS tracking system
·        two radio transceivers and a third backup
·        solar power system to keep it all running

Engineers designed the altitude control system to raise or lower a balloon in-flight to take advantage of wind systems.  Google uses the stratospheric winds to determine course and direction.  The flight computer and GPS tracking system ensure the balloon goes where it is supposed to go.

Connecting the World – At Least Part of It

It would seem that Google has the edge on Facebook in the race to determine who will be the primary provider of data communications and internet access in the Third World.  The only question that remains is whether or not the internet giant can keep enough balloons in the air, on a continuous basis, to ensure subscribers never lose connectivity.  Google claims it has the speed and technology to do just that.

The systems used to launch Google's 30 test balloons from New Zealand required as many as 14 people and 60 minutes to launch a single unit.  Now engineers say they can get a balloon up in 15 minutes with just two people.  Combined with an extended life more than 18 times the project's original 7 to 10 days, Google is confident it can meet the needs of customers.

Their system already has commercial acceptance as evidenced by a number of contracts Google has already managed to secure.  Sri Lanka will be utilising the system beginning next year (2016), as will three of the mobile networks operating in Indonesia.  We expect Google to announce additional contracts as soon as it has ink on paper.   They are going to want the world to know that they are the first to bring high-speed internet access to parts of the world that have previously been closed.

Although Google's Project Loon is not technically cloud computing in the strictest interpretation of the term, their plans are exciting nonetheless.  Who would have thought a decade ago that internet access would be brought to some of the most remote parts of the world without high-cost construction?  Nicely done, Google!

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