It is no secret that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to see the whole humanity connected to the web. Unfortunately internet connections are just not available in many places. But Zuckerberg believes he has a solution for this pesky problem.On Thursday, he announced that Internet.org, an organization that Facebook started in partnership with a few other technology companies, is experimenting with drones that are capable of beaming internet in an area from the sky. “In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we’ve been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook.
“Our team has many of the world’s leading experts in aerospace and communications technology, including from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center. Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UKbased company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. They will join our team working on connectivity aircraft.”
Internet.org was launched last year with an aim to bring down the cost of internet connectivity across the world so that more people can connect to the web and utilize web services. Last month at Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg revealed that Internet.org was working with several telecom operators across the world to reduce the cost of internet connectivity.
Facebook on Thursday revealed that the team exploring various methods to beam internet from sky is part of Connectivity Lab, a new department within Internet.org. It is exploring various options. A solar-powered drone is one option.
“For suburban areas in limited geographical regions, we’ve been working on solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft that can stay aloft for months, be quickly deployed and deliver reliable internet connections,” Internet.org noted in a statement posted on its website. “For lower-density areas, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites can beam internet access to the ground.” In both cases, the internet connection will be beamed through free-space optical communication, which makes use of “light to transmit data through space using invisible, infrared laser beams”. “Free-space optical communication is a promising technology that potentially allows us to dramatically boost the speed of internet connections provided by satellites and drones,” noted Internet.org.
In his attempts to beam internet from sky, Zuckerberg is not alone. Larry Page and Sergei Brin, co-founders of Google, are also interested in connecting more people to the web. Last year Google announced Project Loon that intends to use high-altitude balloons to deliver fast internet in remote areas. Explaining Project Loon, Google says, “Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. People can connect to the balloon network using a special internet antenna attached to their building.” Google had earlier experimented with Project Loon balloons in New Zealand. The company is now testing these balloons in California.
A few days back Google released an Android software developer kit for wearables in a move that should lead to smartwatch and other gear. What remains to be seen is how well Android can adapt to the small screen.
In an announcement that came at the SXSW Sundar Pichai, who heads Google Chrome and Android efforts said he wants to connect to a bevy of sensors and wearables with Android. Google’s Android is already moving into automobiles. Android has proved it can move to larger screens. From the smartphone, Android has hit tablets, TVs and even PCs. However, the small screen may be trickier—assuming some of these wearables and sensor-first devices even have screens. Here’s a look at Android’s key challenges as they relate to the wearable market:
1. Wearable computing operating systems need to be silently working in the background – effortlessly and elegantly. Android’s Achilles Heel is the working in the background bit.
2. The Wearables ecosystem is a smarter one having learnt its lessons from Smartphones. Already Intel and Samsung have upped their game and presence. OEMs this time may not want to play all of it into one corner.Android means a race to the bottom for hardware makers.
3. Its hard to be one OS for all screens – the OS must have to be lightened considerably especially for wearables. Android could simply be too bulky to be useful in wearable computing.
4. Apps for the wearables will need a serious rethink – especially in the sense that these may not be visible apps or may have to pair devices in groups for serious activity
5. There’s a bit of unease about Google and data. Android in a smartwatch seems like a no brainer since the device to date is merely an extension of the smartphone. However,users may be wary of sharing vital signs with Google and may not want ads and pitches via a wearable. Google is all about the ads and wearable computing can make pitches a bit more freaky.
Sooner than later, these challenges will be overcome by Google, but I’ve been in the tech industry long enough to know that retrofits and alternates don’t always fly. Adapting Android to wearable computing is likely to be harder than it appears on the whiteboard.
A $60mn acquisition to bring internet to everyone, everywhere. Mark Zuckerberg has his sights set on his ambitious Internet.org and is busying himself delivering internet in the remotest places on earth. To do this and more Zuckerberg is reportedly buying out a manufacturer of drones, Titan Aerospace.
Titan’s drones, which resemble solar-powered airplanes, are designed to fly as high as 65,000 feet and stay aloft for as long as five years — essentially functioning like cheap satellites. They could blanket large areas with wireless Internet signals, although the signals would be slower and unable to handle as much data as land-based Internet connections. For remote places like rural Africa, they would be enough to provide at least rudimentary access to the Internet through mobile phones.
Facebook would have to overcome lots of technical and legal problems before a global Facenet would be a reality. But the idea would allow the social network to one-up its rival, Google, which has its own far-fetched plan to extend the Internet to far-flung places via a network of balloons. And it is a lot closer to reality than Amazon’s idea of drones that will deliver packages.
For once it is nice to see drones connecting rather than decimating indiscriminately with Hellfire missiles…
As for Zuckerberg, the nay-sayers and skeptics see another grand vision of taking control of user personal data (this thought has taken serious roots with the $19bn acquistion of WhatsApp)
Highlights from the Gartner Report
1. The worldwide sales of tablets to end users reached 195.4 million units in 2013, a 68 percent increase on 2012
2. This is fuelled by an improved quality of smaller low-cost tablets from branded vendors and white-box products continued to grow in emerging markets
3. The emerging markets recorded growth of 145 percent in 2013, while mature markets grew 31 percent.
4. Around 121 million Android tablets were sold worldwide in 2013, up from 53 million in 2012.
5. Android surpasses Apple iOS in tablet market. Android now holds 62 percent marketshare.
6. Despite Microsoft now acting more rapidly to evolve Windows 8.1, its ecosystem still failed to capture major consumers’ interest on tablets.
7. To compete, Microsoft needs to create compelling ecosystem proposition for consumers and developers across all mobile devices, as tablets and smartphones become key devices for delivering applications and services to users beyond the PC
1. 2013 saw PC shipments contract by 9.8%, the severest on record.
2. The bad news is not over as the category is expected to see another drop of 6.1% in 2014 basis lackluster demand from in developing markets
3. The weak economic environments in emerging markets coupled with significant shifts in device priorities is causing the decline in PC category.
4. Long-term growth in PC shipments is expected to remain just below zero, with shipments in 2018 expected to decline 0.2 percent