What in the air is a Google balloon?


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a new social network? The world’s biggest web brand is looking at the possibility of launching a truly global Internet connection in the clouds. Naturally, then we’re intrigued.
Introducing Project Loon- Google’s latest way of spending huge amounts of cash pushing the online world forward. It’s also, without question, the firm’s most ambitious to date, making the decision to go up against Facebook in the social media arms race look like a bashful attempt to save face.
Currently only around one third of the planet’s population has access to the Internet. Which is a huge problem, considering how connected the developed world is, and how reliant on that connection the global economies of finance, knowledge and industry are. It’s a situation that displeases Earth’s largest web gatekeeper, so the company is looking to use our environment to try and overcome the obstacles caused by the many miles of difference that exist between rich and poor.
Cutting a long story short, Project Loon is code for a system of technologically advanced balloons. Once in the sky, these helium filled orbs will roam the atmosphere, riding on various weather systems, and work together to bounce a signal across the world, leaving no region untapped. All of which sounds impossible, but apparently it’s all very achievable, with the first test flights already taking place.
On 30th June, 30 balloons were launched into the air above New Zealand, albeit there were a few issues, with some of the floating devices going missing. Apparently Google’s ‘ultimate goal’ is to get them back, and having the lowest possible environmental impact is high on the agenda. But even so, many skeptics have been quick to suggest this may well be “One step too far??? for the market leader, and an unwise idea for the planet.
From a Western perspective it’s certainly easy to write off the benefits a global connection offers when you consider the problems setting one up would entail. Not to mention the fact Google Loon will only offer an already superseded 3G comparable speed. We all have smartphones, after all, and on the odd occasion there’s no signal, let’s face it, having a break from the daily bombardment of emails and calls can actually be a relief.
But then this is only really one side of the story. For billions more the most revolutionary invention of the late-20th Century remains inaccessible, even though we’re now well into the 21st. This means that despite the many obstacles in place, and whether the kit ends up being in the sky or not, developing a comprehensive Internet signal for all is nothing short of essential if there’s any hope of leveling that playing field.