Alphabet tries internet lasers instead of balloons for India

Alphabet is adopting laser-beaming boxes in favor of Project Loon's balloons for its latest internet-delivery partnership in Andhra Pradesh, India. The state government is snapping up 2,000 of the hubs, which rely on Free Space Optical Communications…
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Alphabet Has Officially Launched Balloons that Deliver Internet In Puerto Rico


Web Balloons

Alphabet’s Project Loon has officially launched in Puerto Rico in an effort to bring basic internet connectivity to the island after its infrastructure was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. The project utilizes helium air balloons and was able to utilize working ground connections to relay internet service to more than 100,000 unconnected inhabitants.

Speaking to Engadget, the head of Project Loon Alastair Westgarth stated, “In times of crisis, being able to communicate with loved ones, emergency services, and critical information is key. We hope that the connectivity Project Loon has provided over the last few weeks has been helpful, and would like to thank AT&T, T-Mobile, and our government partners who made these efforts possible.”

High Tech Solutions

This is the fastest that Project Loon has ever been launched. The balloons set off from Winnemucca, Nevada and the team used machine learning algorithms to fly them to Puerto Rican airspace. And, while the project was not able to provide connectivity to the entire island, it is still an improvement to the territory’s decimated infrastructure and isn’t an indicator of shortcomings in Project Loon’s capabilities.

Alphabet isn’t the only company that is looking to use their technologies to help rebuild Puerto Rico. AT&T is also helping to reinstate wireless service with its “Flying COW” (Cell on Wings) drones. The devices helped to deliver cell phone service, including LTE wireless, to up to 8,000 people in San Juan, the territory’s capital.

Elon Musk’s Tesla additionally sent hundreds of batteries, including Powerwalls and higher capacity Powerpacks, to help get power to where it was needed most, including a children’s hospital in the capital.

Musk also spoke with Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rosselló, about using the company’s technology to completely overhaul the island’s electricity grid, which was already crumbling long before Maria touched down. However, critics fear that such a move would be more disruptive to the Puerto Rican power sector, which is currently run by government-owned utilities.

Still, these high-tech solutions are helping to get Puerto Rico back up and running. It is now up to the people of Puerto Rico to decide what technologies will best benefit them throughout this rebuilding period and in the future.

The post Alphabet Has Officially Launched Balloons that Deliver Internet In Puerto Rico appeared first on Futurism.


Alphabet’s Project Loon deploys LTE balloons in Puerto Rico

Alphabet’s Project Loon has officially deployed its LTE balloons to Puerto Rico, the team announced this afternoon. In a blog penned by Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth, the company says it’s working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Authority, FEMA, and other cellular spectrum and aviation authorities to bring connectivity to parts of the island still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Loon’s official LTE partner for the initiative is AT&T, which is helping Loon use its fleet of stratospheric helium balloons to bring functions like text messaging and minor web browsing access to Puerto Rico residents who have LTE-equipped smartphones.

“We’ve never deployed Project Loon connectivity from…

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Project Loon balloons bring LTE service to Puerto Rico with help from Apple

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Google parent company Alphabet on Friday said it is collaborating with AT&T, Apple and various government agencies to deliver limited wireless internet access to Puerto Rico via the company’s Project Loon balloons.
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Project Loon’s LTE balloons are floating over Puerto Rico

About a month after Hurricane Maria's devastating landfall on Puerto Rico and a couple of weeks after the FCC gave clearance, Project Loon is bringing wireless internet to people on remote parts of the island. Part of (Google parent company) Alphabet…
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Facebook, Tesla and other tech giants are giving aid to Puerto Rico in the form of VR, ‘internet balloons’ and batteries

Example: Mark Zuckerberg announced an augmented-reality mapping tool to help the Red Cross.

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last month, the island is still struggling to recover. And while President Donald Trump has tweeted that the U.S. government has done an amazing job there, the country has struggled to get basic services like cell coverage, power and internet back up.

Silicon Valley tech giants have promised to help the relief effort in some increasingly creative ways.

So for those who haven’t had a minute to sort out what the tech industry is promising Puerto Rico, here is our ongoing list. We’ll update as we hear about more initiatives:


Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he could provide support by helping to rebuild the island’s power grid using solar power. Puerto Rico is taking Musk’s idea seriously.

Musk’s company has installed solar power grids on other small islands like Ta’u in American Samoa.

Solar power aside, Tesla has also been sending hundreds of its Powerwall home batteries to the country in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.


Last month, Facebook pledged $ 1.5 million to multiple charities to help Puerto Rico’s recovery. It also flew in employees from its connectivity team to work with a tech-focused nonprofit called NetHope to help get the territory back online. Facebook’s connectivity team is the group that is building Facebook’s internet-beaming drones.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also debuted a new virtual reality feature on Facebook Live on Monday, and used the technology to take viewers on a tour of a few of Puerto Rico’s flooded streets.

Zuckerberg used the VR experience as an opportunity to announce that Facebook is working with the Red Cross to build “population maps” that would help relief organizations know where help is needed. Zuckerberg said the mapping technology would use machine learning and augmented reality to show population densities in order to help direct where supplies and other relief efforts might be needed.


On Saturday, the Federal Communications Commission gave Alphabet an experimental license to use its balloon-powered internet service, called Project Loon, to restore service in Puerto Rico.

An example of Project Loon’s balloons.

However, the license is just the first step in Alphabet potentially providing internet service to the territory. Alphabet is still evaluating if Project Loon will be able to help Puerto Rico, and it hasn’t released a schedule for providing service.


Airbnb has been providing housing and shelters to those displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The room-sharing service has options for Puerto Rican and Caribbean residents to offer space to those in need of housing.

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Google’s Internet-Beaming Balloons Will Soon Be Floating Over Puerto Rico

Project Loon to the Rescue

Google has received a license from the FCC to deploy its Project Loon balloons over Puerto Rico and parts of the Virgin Islands. Google will be able to provide coverage there until April 4, 2018. If all goes according to plan, the helium balloons will provide emergency LTE cellular reception to local governments and residents, allowing them to contact family and friends. It will also enable them to reestablish communication with the outside world and manage relief efforts. At the time of writing, it is uncertain how much of Puerto Rico will be covered, which areas of the Virgin Islands will be covered, or how many balloons Google will deploy.


This will not be the first time Google has sent its helium LTE coverage providers to assist in the wake of a disaster; the balloons gave Peruvians coverage after extreme flooding wiped out power and has also tested disaster relief initiatives in France, Brazil, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. However, in Peru the problem was simpler because Google was already working together with a local telecom provider to provide disaster relief, so the structure for getting signals to and from the balloons was already in place.

As Google and Project Loon arrive in Puerto Rico, they’ll be starting with nothing in place. At this point, Puerto Rico’s telecom companies may not be able to formally partner with Google and provide any resources toward this collaboration, but obviously Google intends to make connectivity happen if it can. In a statement to Engadget, Google’s Alphabet X lab, home to Project Loon, said partnership with local telecom networks is critical to success: “To deliver signal to people’s devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network — the balloons can’t do it alone. We’ve been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who’s been lending a hand.”

Meeting the Challenge

Project Loon uses its balloon network at 65,000 feet in the air to receive signals from a telecom partners on the ground, and then sends them to cellphone users. According to Mashable, the Peruvian project leader said the balloons sent 160 GB of data as they floated over an area about the size of Sweden, “enough data to send and receive around 30 million WhatsApp messages, or 2 million emails.”

Image Credit: Google/X Company, Project Loon
Image Credit: Google/X Company, Project Loon

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, more than 75 percent of its cellphone towers remain offline, and power has yet to be restored to almost 90 percent of the island. The situation remains fairly desperate for the island and its 3.5 million inhabitants, who are American citizens. Hopefully this initiative will prove successful.

The post Google’s Internet-Beaming Balloons Will Soon Be Floating Over Puerto Rico appeared first on Futurism.


Alphabet’s Project Loon may deliver internet to Puerto Rico with hot air balloons

Project Loon, the initiative of Alphabet’s X lab to deliver internet using hot air balloons, is looking into deploying Wi-Fi balloons to help alleviate the crisis in Puerto Rico, the company confirmed. “The Project Loon team at X is exploring if it’s possible to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico,” the X lab’s official Twitter account wrote this afternoon. X, formerly Google X, is the “moonshot” division of Google-owner Alphabet, responsible for the Wing drone delivery project and the self-driving car unit that became Waymo, among other forward-looking tech-adjacent initiatives.

Puerto Rico, home to nearly 3.5 million people, remains largely devastated by Hurricane Maria, the Category 4 storm that has claimed 24 lives in Puerto…

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Why NASA is sending bacteria into the sky on balloons during the eclipse

As the Moon blocks the Sun’s light completely next week in a total solar eclipse, more than 50 high-altitude balloons in over 20 locations across the US will soar up to 100,000 feet in the sky. On board will be raspberry pie cameras, weather sensors, and modems to stream live eclipse footage. They’ll also have metal tags coated with very hardy bacteria, because NASA wants to know whether they will survive on Mars.

Every time we send a rover to the Red Planet, our own microorganisms latch onto them and hitch a ride across space. What happens to these bacteria once they’re on Mars? Do they mutate? Do they die? Or can they continue living undisturbed, colonizing worlds other than our own? To answer these questions we need to run experiments…

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Facebook has been secretly testing an app in China called Colorful Balloons

In May, Facebook quietly launched a photo-sharing app called Colorful Balloons in China, where the social networking site is banned, according to a report in The New York Times.

Colorful Balloons appears to mimic the look and feel of Facebook’s Moments app, which allows users to share photos with friends and family members. Rather than interfacing with Facebook, the app works with the country’s biggest social network, WeChat. Facebook released the app through a local company called Youge Internet Technology, without any hint of branding from the social media giant, and appears to have taken efforts to ensure that it doesn’t spread widely.

China banned Facebook in July 2009, and partially blocked WhatsApp in July. Since then, CEO Mark…

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