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Tag Archives: Google

Google Shoots for Moon with Balloons Hovering Earth

March 9, 2017

By Ernest Worthman

Executive Editor, Applied Wireless Technology

Courtesy Google

Courtesy Google

Google’s Project Loon (floating wireless transmitters on balloons) is back in the news. Alphabet, Google’s holding company, is really a bit of a Disneyland for inventors. For example, it’s latest propaganda move is to talk about “moonshots” – various schemes that may seem a bit, well, loony, like their balloon ideas. Some are doomed to failure from the get-go, but if you have as much money as Google, you can afford to be a bit eclectic.

In fact, there is a bit of humor in this. the person in charge has the title of “Captain of Moonshots” and his name is Astro Teller – for real! And he has an interesting philosophy; failure is a necessary condition of moonshot-taking, ergo the more speculative a venture the greater the risk of failure.

Interesting position. Now the concept of failure becomes a key component of success. That may be why Teller is trying float the notion that using balloons to deliver wireless connectivity is going really well.

project-loonI haven’t seen any Google balloons yet, but Teller says that it all comes down to clever algorithms, in this case ones that can control these balloons such that they form geostationary clusters rather than just floating around at the mercy of air currents. This kind of model is much closer to being a viable commercial service and there are a few up in the air, so to speak, over Peru. Perhaps this is their beta test.

Google has more than its share of off-the-wall ideas. So far, none of them have hit it big so it’s hard to draw any conclusions about Project Loon, or any of the other variants, being anything other than just another moonshot. But it must be a blast working for that company.

Artificial IntelIigence: The Technology to Watch

January 5, 2017 — 

By Ernest Worthman

Executive Editor, Applied Wireless Technology

worthmanArtificial intelligence (AI) will be much more visible in the coming year. In fact, some say AI is the technology to watch in 2017, and not just in high-visibility apps. The emergence of platforms like Microsoft’s Cognitive Service, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Speech API, allow product developers to focus on user experience rather than low-level speech processing. This will enable a plethora of products such as virtual assistants, which use voice-controlled artificial intelligence interfaces to fit into users’ lives more seamlessly.

One such project is call Vi. It is an Ai-based “bio-sensing” wireless earphone which finds your ideal path to fitness and coaches you in real time. Another one, Bonjour, is an alarm clock that wakes you up with a personalized daily briefing based upon learned preferences. And Dashbot, a talking car accessory that rings of Kit, the wonder car in the TV show Knight Rider.

Deep learning will move out of the hype zone and into reality this year. On the high-end of AI for 2017 are things like IBM’s Watson, which will see leaps in technological advancements. And look for AI to start appearing, more and more, in manual repetitive tasks once performed by humans. AI is going to be something to watch in 2017.

Google Experiments at 70 GHz+

By Ernest Worthman

Laugh at Google if you will, and one has to admit some of their schemes sound a bit “looney,” such as the Loon project and Titan aerospace drones developed to act as wireless relay stations. But one has to give them credit for running on the edge. And, they are still pushing the envelope. They got the FCC to give them the nod to start conducting nationwide airborne and terrestrial millimeter wave testing. They were granted an experimental license, which, of course sparked informal objections from the sky is falling set, registering their concerns about health effects and interference on surrounding life forms.

Granted this is up there in the 70 GHz+ bands, which are quite capable of cooking living tissue, but at 75,000 feet, there really isn’t much living tissue nearby. And passing though the beam quickly isn’t likely to have any side effects either. So shooting narrow beam widths at balloons shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Don’t we already do that with satellite operations?

As much as I like to laugh at Google and hate them for their sneaky spying tactics, I love that they are out there on this. If this comes to pass, it has the potential to ease up the bandwidth crunch by being another offload data platform. And with 70-plus percent of the traffic being data, nowadays, offloading much of it will keep the frequencies from developing data gridlock. Wi-Fi is being used for that so why can’t Google get in the game. Even if their platforms are drones and balloons?

Google Jockeying for the Wireless Future

2015 in Review

By Ernest Worthman —

Another interesting topic of 2015 is Google. Is there any doubt that Google is jockeying for position as a wireless carrier and an ISP? The year was full of news about that. They have been working on that for years but it seems that this year there was a good amount of news about Google fiber.

It seems that the metrics of uber-fast Internet, coupled with wide bandwidth and cost savings, have people sitting up and taking notice of Google’s fiber platform. There are a number of other things that Google caught eyes on in 2015. Things like the balloon scheme, Project Loon; the drone project, Titan: Project Wing; mobile service, Project Fi, and its latest secret project in the 28 GHz and 31 GHz bands, suspected of looking for playing space in the 5G arena. Google also just petitioned the FCC to run some trials on aircraft hovering at 25,000 feet as relay points for wireless communications.

Without a doubt, Google is charging ahead in arenas that are traditionally held by wireless players. No doubt they will be in this report at the end of 2016 as well.

What is Google Up to Now?

By Ernest Worthman —

August 26, 2015 — I love following what Google is up to. Some of their ideas are just insane, but when you have that kind of money, you can be insane. And every once in a while the behemoth actually comes up with a good idea that doesn’t involve knowing everything about you, what you do and where. But this one I’m not so sure about.

Google is looking at operating drones using LTE frequencies. They have partnered with NASA, under a NASA’s Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), so they can experiment with unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Funny, that Google can partake in a program originally intended for government agencies. It is supposed to be reserved for public organizations like the military, state universities and police or fire departments.

The experiments could last up to six months and involve transmissions on the LTE radio frequencies used by all the major cellphone companies.

NASA’s Ames Research Center recently released an open call to invite government, industry and academic partners to collaborate with NASA to conduct and identify research needs and to accelerate the development of an air-traffic control system for drones. NASA is also investigating the possibility of drone monitoring via cell technology.

Hmmm…I have a bit of a hard time with this. Call me paranoid, but this smells to me like one of those “let’s see what we can contrive to cover up new government plans to snoop on things.” Involved are Google, NASA and the cell phone carrier.