Project Loon: The Basics and its Vision to Change the Healthcare

By CIOReview | Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Today, sharing ideas and information has become easier and swifter than before with the evolution of ‘Internet’—provisioned by satellites that covers about 500 billion square kilometer area of earth’s surface. However, the satellites still has more than five billion people yet to cover in its vicinity. Google X, a semi-secret research and development facility envisaged the idea of providing these people with internet by launching balloons in the sky.

Project Loon use tons of high altitude balloons that float and travel in the rarely visited stratosphere situated at an altitude of 20 kilometers above the earth’s surface. Project Loon’s balloon assembly has three main parts—envelope, solar panels and the box. Envelope is the actual balloon standing 39 feet tall and filled with Helium gas, which propels the balloon high in the sky with solar panel attached below the balloon to power the box with electronics. The box is embedded with solar powered electronics—circuit boards, radio antennas, lithium-ion batteries and Ubiquiti Networks, which establish communication link between other balloons and internet antennas setup on the ground. Each balloon can cover an area of 40 kilometers in diameter.

Project Loon was initially tested in a rural area of New Zealand where a farmer was benefitted from the test. Impressed with results, the farmer noted that, for satellite internet connection he expended about $1000 every month.

During the test, a bright red-colored, basketball-sized receiver was installed outside the wall of the property to enable internet connection. In the initial research, balloons communicated using unlicensed 2.4 and 5.8 GHz ISM bands; it offered internet speed equal to that of the 4G-LTE. Larry Page, Co-founder, Google restrained the idea of radio spectrum ownership and stated that balloons should be leased to wireless carriers. The leasing saved billions of expenditure on spectrum; and partnering with telecommunication companies and sharing their cellular spectrum, turned potential competitors into allies. This allows internet users to directly connect to the balloon network from user’s phones or other LTE-enabled devices.

Project Loon is partnering with Vodafone in New Zealand to offer internet connection to the users. Telecommunication companies all over the globe can now offer their internet services to users in remote and rural regions, which were previously deprived with the internet access. This technology revolution will impact on many different continuums, one of which is the healthcare. Patients in rural areas can now use the latest electronic methods—EHR and EMR, whereas hospitals and other healthcare institutes would be able to simplify and organize different healthcare processes. Sowing the seed of technology and nurturing it with innovation, Project Loon reckons every technology at the doorsteps of individual by scaling the internet.

This whole creative idea is not only to offer internet access to everyone, but help the nation to gradually increase its economy with the fortification of sectors like Agriculture, Education, Healthcare, and others by enabling access to various trends, situations and events occurring around the world.