Ok, so it’s not 99 red balloons, but today Google announced that they are beta testing a program in New Zealand that, according to The Washington Post, will connect billions of people to the Internet. The Internet giant has released 30 giant helium filled balloons into the skies over New Zealand. They have 50 people on the ground testing out WiFi that is being beamed from the balloons.
The balloons will move across the stratosphere along the 40th parallel in the Southern Hemisphere where the beta testers will hopefully be able to receive the signal and actually use the Internet.
The balloons were released earlier this week and are said to be transmitting WiFi signals comparable to those found on 3G data here in the U.S.
Partly because the idea is so crazy and partly because it involves balloons, the project coming out of Google’s Project X labs has been appropriately dubbed “Project Loon”.
According to this TechCrunch report, Google engineers will remotely control the balloons using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help predict the ballons flight paths. The engineers will be able to move the balloons up and down to catch the right winds and keep the balloons on their correct flight path.
The main goal behind Project Loon is getting Internet access to the two thirds of the people that don’t currently have it. In fact, in the introductory video (below) they start off by saying that for every one person that has Internet access, two don’t. Google is hoping that Project Loon will bring access to remote areas as well as areas where terrain and other factors prohibit more traditional Internet infrastructure. Some examples maybe jungles, rain forests and even deserts. TechCrunch also speculates that Project Loon could help make the Internet affordable to those areas as well.
You can find out more about Project Loon here and by watching the introductory video below.
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