Note: Today’s post comes from Allan Calder. For more on Allan, check out his Google+ page!
When you’re writing a blog, no matter what the subject matter, you sometimes struggle trying to come up with a topic for your next piece and until recently I was suffering through one of these periods, but then I came across a really interesting article that has the potential to change the way people live their lives right across the globe. In North America and most of the Western world we take Internet access for granted, but 90% of the world’s population either has no access to Internet at all, or the Internet they do have access to is extremely slow and frustrating. There are a couple of companies that are trying to change this and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at these innovative ideas and how they might create a truly connected world.
Elon Musk’s Global Internet Initiative
It’s not surprising to find an entrepreneur like Elon Musk at the forefront of any effort to create a truly global Internet solution. If you’re not familiar with who this man is think about how you pay for things online and chances are Elon Musk had something to do with it. If you haven’t guessed by now, he’s one of the co-founders of PayPal. He also happens to be the main driving force behind the innovative Tesla Motors and the private space exploration company Space X – if there’s something that’s considered cutting edge he wants to be involved in it.
Musk realized that there was a gap between the desire for Internet access and the reality in most of the world. His solution? Well, it involves using his Falcon 9 Space X rockets to launch hundreds of small satellites that will go into synchronous low earth orbit right around the globe in order to provide easily accessible Wi-Fi access no matter where you are on the planet. This initiative would certainly change the lives of people in far-flung areas of the world where gaining access to the Internet is next to impossible, but it would also provide easier access to Wi-Fi capability for the rest of us as well. What’s his time frame for this initiative? About five years. It remains to be seen how successful he’ll be, but if his track record is any sort of gauge I wouldn’t bet against him.
Google’s Balloons Bringing Wi-Fi to the Masses
Are you familiar with Project Loon? Well let me recap, this is a project created by Google to bring Internet access to places where it’s never been available before using hot air balloons. The idea is that these balloons can be launched over areas were Internet access is either difficult, or nonexistent. Obviously balloons will have a finite life span, so to maintain service they will have to be replaced fairly often, but when you consider how expensive it is to launch satellites into low earth orbit the relatively low cost of balloons becomes fairly attractive.
Each one of Google’s balloons carries a pair of radio receivers for sending and receiving data which are connected to the global Internet network. This is a technology that Google has been testing for a couple of years now and it has some potentially very practical applications. One such application would be its use in disaster zones where infrastructure has been destroyed, giving first responders quick and reliable access to outside information. This could be a potentially life-saving technology.
It could also provide continuous and reliable Internet access to remote areas such as jungles or mountains according to Google. It’s not likely this technology will be used in well-developed areas, but it’s definitely a great idea for parts of the world were Internet access is currently only a dream. If there’s one thing that Google is good at, it’s making the impossible possible.
Elon Musk and Google are not the only ones trying to develop low earth solutions for providing Internet access anywhere on the globe, but they are testing a couple of the more interesting ideas and both have the reputation for making innovation a reality. I really wouldn’t be surprised if both of these solutions become a reality in the next few years.To keep up with the latest innovations, subscribe to the Impact of Innovation blog's RSS feed or follow The Impact of Innovation on Twitter! Follow @Impact_of_Innov