Loon-atic ideas. The future of connectivity.
Connectivity. It’s something that many of us now take for granted, and it’s critical if you’re considering the adoption of cloud-based technology solutions.
I’m just as likely as the next person to vent my frustration when my connection goes down but according to Google for every person that can get on the internet two people can’t. (Although, I’m not sure my youngest daughter counts in their figures when she asks why she can’t watch movies online when we’re in the car! I’m just not prepared to turn my phone into a wifi hotspot and see the bills go through the roof).
Whilst we think it’s bad in rural areas in the UK, there are still entire territories and countries around the globe that aren’t connected at all.
As Google’s video points out, there are huge benefits to being connected especially in improving education in many of these countries – although whether the motivation for their project is purely philanthropic is open to question. There’s certainly a big commercial opportunity too
So what is Loon? And why is it so important?
According to a recent Gigaom blog post, technology isn’t actually a barrier to what they’re trying to do – ‘mesh networks are nothing new and dirigibles have been around since the time of Graf Zeppelin’.
However, the thinking behind the idea of putting thousands of balloons into the stratosphere to create a global network is, to say the least, pretty ‘out there’! – if not completely crazy!
Google are clearly prepared to push the boundaries – or rather if it works then there will be no boundaries, and that is potentially their biggest challenge as they will need to gain cooperation from governments that just don’t cooperate with each other.
I suppose it will make a change when someone explains that they can’t get online because one of the balloons was shot down for drifting into enemy airspace!
And I’m sure there will be some interesting challenges around security that make what we have to do at the moment to keep networks, devices and data safe and secure look pretty straightforward.
The pilot project is taking place in New Zealand – presumably remote enough to avoid upsetting any less than stable regime by encroaching on their airspace.
It was interesting to hear from the sheep farmer, who is the first person to get online via one of the balloons, that loading a web page from his previous connection would take so long that he’d go off and do something else for 10 minutes while he waited.
I vaguely remember that – but it was way back in the dark ages.
I suppose that the biggest lesson that we can learn from the Loon project is the next time you’re looking to solve a business issue with technology it might not just be a case of thinking out of the box, but rather thinking out of the atmosphere.