Internet is one of the most transformative technologies of our lifetimes - Dare to be better ? OK !

Publié le 4 Décembre 2013

Selon Google, les deux-tiers des habitants de la planète n'ont toujours pas accès à Internet. Un manque innaceptable pour le moteur de recherche qui vient de donner le coup d'envoir en Nouvelle-Zélande d'un projet visant à se servir de ballons dirigeables comme des relais satellites. Il cible des régions pauvres en infrastructure télécom traditionnelles comme l'Afrique ou l'Amérique du sud.

Un projet gonflé ! Google entend apporter, à travers son projet Loon, l'accès à Internet pour tous grâce à des ballons dirigeables de 15 mètres de diamètre. L'idée des ingénieurs du moteur de recherche est assez simple : plutôt que de lancer de coûteux satellites dans l'espace, ils proposent d'utiliser ces ballons, perchés à 20 km au-dessus de nos têtes, pour déployer une connexion Internet de bonne qualité (équivalent 3G). Chaque ballon permettrait de courvrir une population sur un rayon d'environ 40 km.

Contrairement aux satellites qui ont une orbite fixe, les ballons de Google devraient flotter avec les vents de la stratosphère. Ses ingénieurs pensent que l'on aura des "bandes de ballons" qui tourneront ainsi autour du globe au niveau 35ème parallèle, permettant ainsi d'assurer des connexions de bonne qualité en Afrique et en Amérique du Sud notamment.

Google n'a toutefois pas l'intention de lancer seul ce projet. Même s'il a déjà lâché 30 ballons au-dessus de la Nouvelle-Zélande, il espère que des opérateurs télécoms le suivront dans ce développement original, notamment pour lui fournir l'accès au réseau depuis le sol. Les ballons ne sont en fait que des antennes chargées de répercuter le signal sur une large zone. Côté internaute, pour profiter de cette manne numérique tombée du ciel, il faudra simplement s'équiper d'une antenne spécifique.

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The Internet is one of the most transformative technologies of our lifetimes. But for 2 out of every 3 people on earth, a fast, affordable Internet connection is still out of reach. And this is far from being a solved problem.

There are many terrestrial challenges to Internet connectivity—jungles, archipelagos, mountains. There are also major cost challenges. Right now, for example, in most of the countries in the southern hemisphere, the cost of an Internet connection is more than a month’s income.

Solving these problems isn’t simply a question of time: it requires looking at the problem of access from new angles. So today we’re unveiling our latest moonshot from Google[x]: balloon-powered Internet access.

We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below. It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters. The idea may sound a bit crazy—and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon—but there’s solid science behind it.

Balloons, with all their effortless elegance, present some challenges. Many projects have looked at high-altitude platforms to provide Internet access to fixed areas on the ground, but trying to stay in one place like this requires a system with major cost and complexity. So the idea we pursued was based on freeing the balloons and letting them sail freely on the winds. All we had to do was figure out how to control their path through the sky. We’ve now found a way to do that, using just wind and solar power: we can move the balloons up or down to catch the winds we want them to travel in. That solution then led us to a new problem: how to manage a fleet of balloons sailing around the world so that each balloon is in the area you want it right when you need it. We’re solving this with some complex algorithms and lots of computing power.

Now we need some help—this experiment is going to take way more than our team alone. This week we started a pilot program in the Canterbury area of New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect to our balloons. This is the first time we’ve launched this many balloons (30 this week, in fact) and tried to connect to this many receivers on the ground, and we’re going to learn a lot that will help us improve our technology and balloon design.

Over time, we’d like to set up pilots in countries at the same latitude as New Zealand. We also want to find partners for the next phase of our project—we can’t wait to hear feedback and ideas from people who’ve been working for far longer than we have on this enormous problem of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. We imagine someday you'll be able to use your cell phone with your existing service provider to connect to the balloons and get connectivity where there is none today.

This is still highly experimental technology and we have a long way to go—we’d love your support as we keep trying and keep flying! Follow our Google+ page to keep up with Project Loon’s progress.

Onward and upward.

Posted by Mike Cassidy, Project Lead

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Dare to be better ? Ok !

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Publié dans #google, #internet, #afrique, #amerique du sud, #ballon, #balloon

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