I was recently on a business trip to Johannesburg and my flight arrived about an hour before my colleague’s flight. I decided to go get my morning caffeine fix at the Wimpy on the second level at OR Tambo International Airport.
I sat down, placed my order, whipped out my iPad mini and proceeded to ask the waiter for the WiFi password as I wanted to peruse Flipboard while enjoying my morning coffee. Contrary to popular belief, WiFi in South Africa is rarely free. Usually if you buy food at a restaurant you qualify for 30 minutes or a measly 50 Mb of data.
The waiter looked at me puzzled and informed me that the WiFi is not free to which I replied that I am already paying for my meal and coffee. He then told me that the WiFi wasn’t connected. Excuse me? What? I was flabbergasted. It is kind of embarrassing if you ask me. Everywhere I went I decided to try and see if I could access a free WiFi connection anywhere.
I was thus VERY impressed and surprised when the guest house we stayed at offered free WiFi. By the way, if you are ever in Johannesburg and need a place to stay, I can highly recommend Goodnight Guest Lodge (Click here for their website). Their service is exceptional. I haven’t experienced better in the past 6 years of staying in Johannesburg on business.
Introducing Google Project Loon
So with Flipboard finally available on tap, I came across Google Project Loon. This is Google’s answer to global WiFi coverage. You see, 2 out of 3 people on the planet don’t have access to the Internet.
Google Project Loon aims to create a ring of balloons that circle the planet on stratospheric winds providing Internet access to the earth below. Yes, that’s right… balloon powered Internet for everyone.
If you somehow think that Google is playing one of their famous April Fools jokes, I wouldn’t blame you (Who could forget Google Nose). But then just have a look at their introduction video below. These guys and gals are dead serious.
The technology for Google Project Loon is possible and is backed up with some solid science. You see, the balloons will be 20 km’s up which is about 10 km’s higher than clouds, rain or planes. In the stratosphere, there are very specific wind currents. By moving the balloons between these currents, it will be possible for Google to steer their balloons.
On the ground, Google Project Loon will provide specialized Internet antennas that will communicate with the balloons. Then, each balloon will communicate with neighbouring balloons, creating a network high up in the stratosphere. They will then communicate back down to the ground station that connects to the Internet, providing access to all. The balloons also filter out all other signals, allowing only Google Project Loon signals. Have a look at the clip below explaining the science behind Google Project Loon.
Google’s aspirations are nothing short of astronomical as usual. The benefit of Project Loon will be very far reaching and would in my opinion be the most significant technological advancement to the human race since the invention of the Internet itself. If you would like to stay up to date on Project Loon, follow them on the Google + and stay in the know.
Loon for all!
Reference: Google, National Geographic, thetechize