Google’s Project Loon

As surprising as it may or may not seem, around two thirds of the world’s population is not connected to the internet. In an attempt to lower this percentage dramatically, Google has launched a revolutionary campaign, known as Project Loon. Using giant helium balloons that are equipped to distribute WiFi to the area below, Google’s aim is to provide cheaper, more reliable internet service of at least 3G cellular speeds to those in disaster-stricken areas or those who have not had access to this luxury before, mainly in developing areas, such as in Africa and South America. 

The balloons work in this way. These high pressure, solar-powered pieces of technology ascend to about 20 km above the Earth’s surface, which is in the stratosphere and about twice as high as planes fly. Sent up in clusters, these balloons connect to each other, which then connect to specialized antennas located on the ground, as well as the designated wireless internet distributor for a desired area. Anyone within a 24-mile radius of these balloons is said to have access to internet that is 100 times faster than what most consumers have been using today. Engineers on the ground are able to navigate these balloons by utilizing vertical motion and the wind patterns in the stratosphere in order to direct the balloon to its desired location.

From a cyber security aspect, however, this expansion of an already commanding industry does not appeal to some. Using its extensive reach, Google is able to track the behavior of its users and sell the information gained from this to advertisers. Privacy advocates have voiced their concerns with how much of the data retained by Google for projects such as this is being provided to the government. If Project Loon goes as well as planned, the amount of data possessed by Google could be rather detrimental should it fall into the wrong hands or any other mishap occur.

Thus far, the only launch that Google has conducted has been in New Zealand on the 40th parallel south. Project Loon launched 30 balloons from New Zealand’s south island in June of 2013 and the internet beamed to the pilot testers is being used to refine the project for its next phase. If Project Loon is a success, then five billion people who had little to no internet access prior to this campaign will be provided with a new tool and developmental aid, which will act as an enormous step for mankind as a whole.

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-14/business/39983714_1_internet-privacy-balloons-new-zealand

http://www.google.com/loon/where/

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5 thoughts on “Google’s Project Loon

  1. This is a very interesting topic that reminds me of another service. Google has started their own Internet Service called Google Fiber. Right now it is only available in a few cities like Kansas City and they offer regular Megabit internet for free, but if you pay for the service, which I think is about the same price as normal internet, you will get Gigabit internet and that can be around 200% faster. I don’t know if this is true, but someone told me that google is doing this to try to create some competition for ISP’s, because we have the technology to make internet much faster, but nobody will do it because people don’t demand it. Most people will just accept what the companies are giving and I was told that this was being put in place to stop it.

  2. This project is indeed interesting as it will provide Internet access to many people who are currently unable to have any kind of connectivity. Yet, there are many potential security issues with such a system, and even though Google seem overall trustworthy when it comes to security, users may have legitimate concern.

    I am particularly perplexed by the 24-mile coverage, it seems like a huge area for wireless, making eavesdropping a serious concern.

  3. Despite this concept having great benefits, technology will always have loopholes and vulnerabilities. I’m not sure what hackers will use this new technology for. Maybe it will introduce easier ways for hackers to patch into servers, depending on how easy it is to manipulate the “satellites”. I also remember reading about how hackers can use radios to deliver unwanted messages, or use radio signals to manipulate how vehicles operate. I wonder how this all ties together.

  4. This is an advertising stunt. And a good one. But is it really practical? Gas balloons can only change altitude by venting gas or dumping ballast and the budget for both of those commodities is kinda limited. Hopefully that they can make it work!

  5. I also agree that although a great service is being provided for a broad range of people, this is a form of advertising. I do not blame them in doing so however, and think the benefits will outweigh the costs in the long run. An issue that may arise from this however is that since the populations receiving connectivity do not have much experience or knowledge of the internet, will there be technical support available for them. We all know how frustrating it can be going through some processes in first world countries here like the United States, just imagine how it would be for others. Could this eventually create more of a nuisance rather than service?

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