Google X to commercially launch Project Loon and Makani by 20162 min read . Updated: 13 Feb 2015, 12:27 AM IST
Project Loon, the balloon-powered Internet initiative, offers cheap Internet access to about 4.5 bn people across the world
Mumbai: Few people have heard about Google X, a semi-secret facility run by Google Inc. that is located about half a mile from its headquarters in Mountain View, California.
The research and development (R&D) facility is dedicated to developing new products such as Google Glass, drones, driverless cars and helium balloons that will provide Wi-Fi access to people in remote areas.
Google X is now looking to make its Project Loon—the balloon-powered Internet initiative—commercially available by 2016 offering cheap Internet access to about 4.5 billion people across the world, according to Mohammad Gawdat, vice-president of business innovation at Google X.
Speaking at the Nasscom India Leadership Forum on Thursday, he said, “Over 4.5 billion people today do not have Internet connectivity, and that is a problem not solved by incremental technology that ideally requires as many as 200,000 telecom towers in India alone."
Google X, he said, did trials of helium balloons, which at its earliest stage were plastic bags filled with helium with a small Linux machine hung from it and a Wi-Fi device that could fly some 20m and provide Wi-Fi Internet access to all the areas it flew over. In a more refined form, the helium balloons capture the wind direction in a way to accurately be controlled to offer Internet in a certain area.
“By 2016, we believe we can start to launch on a commercial front, allowing us to offer Internet coverage on every square feet of planet earth at a very cheap cost. We are working very closely with telecom providers, and governments across the world, including in India to launch this commercially, and already we have got permission from about half the Southern hemisphere’s governments to commercially launch this," Gawdat added.
Google X has also been working on for the past one-and-a-half years on another project called Makani which essentially harnesses wind energy through kites. This project is also set to be launched commercially by 2016, said Gawdat; India could be one of the first nations where it would be deployed, considering the centre’s focus on renewable energy. “Providing enough energy without causing pollution is yet another major problem. While solar power is one solution, harnessing wind energy is a fabulous way of generating energy. However, the problem with traditional wind turbines today is that they are built to a height of up to just 140 metres, which is insufficient to get enough wind to drive the energy that is required," explained Gawdat.