Project Loon has successfully managed to surf wind patterns in order to carry Internet from New Zealand to South American to Australia, says the team's latest update on Google+. This is the first time the project has managed a long-range LTE service to two continents separated by an ocean.
Project Loon is the name for Google's efforts to create a global mesh of Internet-enabled balloons, which along with efforts from the likes of Facebook, promises to blanket the entire planet with connectivity.
The team was able to follow the balloon as it drifted with the jet stream across the ocean and then send a command to drop into a slower trajectory to offer more time to test connectivity.
Launched from New Zealand, our globe-connecting balloon made the first leg its journey travelling 9000 km over the Pacific Ocean. Approaching our test location in Chile at a speed of 80 km/h, a command was sent for the balloon to rise into a wind pattern that slowed it down to a quarter of its speed, allowing it to drift overhead members of the Loon operations team who were able to connect to the balloon via smartphones on our test-partner mobile network.
Wind manipulation is now a key feature of the project:
One of Project Loon’s earliest Eureka moments was the idea that we could provide continuous Internet connection not by keeping balloons stationary over a given location (which would require lots and lots of energy to work against the wind) but by coordinating a fleet of balloons to work with the wind, such that when one balloon leaves a location another moves into its place to continue providing connectivity.
Successful global deployment would have enormous implications for travel, as it would instantly connect over a billion new users to the Internet infrastructure — and all its related products, such as travel — while also making it feasible for travelers in remote locations (or simply away from their home networks) to access apps and other travel services.
Of course, widespread access to the Internet is a Western-fueled prospect, something that represents a democratic access to the world's knowledge and information. A recent Pew Research study suggests that some folks in emerging markets perceive the Internet's impact to have had a negative effect on morality. Here's how that shakes out:
Regardless of citizen sentiment, this global internet layer has now become a matter of when and not if. Travel brands should consider what true ubiquitous connectivity means for the future of their business and begin to at least prepare for both the advantages and disadvantages that come with this sort of global Internet mesh.