techBlog

Friday, 30 August 2013

Google :Project Loon

             

From sending solar-powered balloons into the stratosphere to offering free Wi-Fi in parks, Google is quietly spending hundreds of millions dollar on nascent internet services that may one day challenge the telecom and cable companies. Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 20 km (12 mi) to create an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds. Because of the project's seemingly outlandish mission goals, Google dubbed it "Project Loon".



The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet. The system aims to bring Internet access to remote and rural areas poorly served by existing provisions, and to improve communication duringnatural disasters to affected regions.Key people involved in the project include Rich DeVaul, chief technical architect, who is also an expert on wearable technology;Mike Cassidy, a project leader; and Cyrus Behroozi, a networking and telecommunication lead.



History

In 2008, Google had considered contracting with or acquiring Space Data Corp., a company that sends balloons carrying small base stations about 20 miles (32 km) up in the air for providing connectivity to truckers and oil companies in the southern United States, but didn't do so. 

Unofficial development on the project began in 2011 under incubation in Google X with a series of trial runs in California's Central Valley. The project was officially announced as a Google project on 14 June 2013.



On 16 June 2013, Google began a pilot experiment in New Zealand where about 30 balloons were launched in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority from the Tekapo area in the South Island. About 50 local users in and around Christchurch and the Canterbury Region tested connections to the aerial network using special antennas.After this initial trial, Google plans on sending up 300 balloons around the world at the 40th parallel south that would provide coverage to New Zealand, Australia, Chile, andArgentina. Google hopes to eventually have thousands of balloons flying in the stratosphere




Technology

The technology designed in the project could allow countries to avoid using expensive fiber cable that would have to be installed underground to allow users to connect to the Internet. Google feels this will greatly increase Internet usage in developing countries in regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia that can't afford to lay underground fiber cable.




The high-altitude balloons fly around the world on the prevailing winds (mostly in a direction parallel with lines of latitude, i.e. east or west). Solar panels about the size of a card table that are just below the free-flying balloons generate enough electricity in four hours to power the transmitter for a day and beam down the Internet signal to ground stations. These stations are spaced about 100 km (62 mi) apart and bounce the signal to other relay balloons that send the signal back down. This makes Internet access available to anyone in the world who has a receiver and is within range to a balloon. Currently, the balloons communicate using unlicensed 2.4 and 5.8 GHzISM bands, and Google claims that the setup allows it to deliver "speeds comparable to 3G" to users. It is unclear how well technologies that rely on short communications times or pings, such as VoIP, will work given that the signal may have to relay through multiple balloons before reaching the wider Internet.

Google Balloon Internet

The first person to connect - a farmer in the town of Leeston, New Zealand, who was one of 50 people in the area around Christchurch who agreed to be a pilot tester for Project Loon.

The New Zealand farmer lived in a rural location that couldn't get broadband access to the Internet, and had used a satellite Internet service in 2009, but found that he sometimes had to pay over $1000 per month for the service. The locals knew nothing about the secret project, but allowed project workers to attach a basketball-sized receiver resembling a giant bright-red Google map pin to an outside wall of their property in order to connect to the Internet. 
The high-altitude balloons fly twice as high as airplanes, but below the range of satellites. Each balloon provides Internet service for an area that covers about 1,256 km2 (485 sq mi).




Equipment


The balloon envelopes used in the project are made by Raven Aerostar, and are composed of polyethylene plastic about 3 mil or 0.076 mm (0.0030 in) thick. The balloons are superpressure balloons filled with helium, and stand 15 m (49 ft) across and 12 m (39 ft) tall when fully inflated. A small box weighing 10 kg (22 lb) containing each balloon's electronic equipment hangs underneath the inflated envelope. This box contains circuit boards that control the system, radio antennae to communicate with other balloons and with Internet antennae on the ground, and batteries to store solar power so the balloons can operate during the night. Each balloon’s electronics are powered by an array of solar panelsthat sit between the envelope and the hardware. In full sun, the panels produce 100 watts of power, which is sufficient to keep the unit running while also charging a battery for use at night. A parachute attached to the top of the envelope allows for a controlled descent and landing when a balloon is ready to be taken out of service. In the case of an unexpected failure, the parachute deploys automatically. The balloons typically have a maximum life of about 55 days, although Google claims that its tweaked design can enable them stay aloft for more than 100 days.






The ground stations are able to connect to the balloons beaming down the Internet when the balloons are in a 20 km (12 mi) radius. Some reports have called Google's project the Google Balloon Internet.



Reception

Project Loon has generally been well received, although concerns about signal interference were raised by Square Kilometer Array(SKA) project developers and astronomers who worry that the lower end of the two ISM bands that Loon uses (2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz) will interfere with the mid-band frequency range (0.5 GHz-3 GHz) used in the SKA project.




The usage of helium as the lifting gas in the balloons has also raised controversy since it is a non-renewable resource.Bill Gates criticized Project Loon, stating that: "When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you. When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that."

ABC of TECH
source : wikipedia