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People love huge and glossy objects. So we can be forgiven for being absolutely blown away by Google’s idea of passing on IP throughout the skies through giant balloons to remote areas where Web connection would otherwise not exist.

The most jaw-dropping element of the Loon job is the fact that the system makes use of algorithms to change released windspeed and instructions information into navigation making use of algorithms. (Balloons are moved by discovering an altitude at which the air is relocating the right instructions.)

So much about this task is amazing – the scope and audacity of it, the solar-powered servers-in-the-sky, and the truth that balloons will provide the Web to remote areas – that the core aspect of Loon is simple to ignore.

The crucial thing about Loon is mesh networking.

The idea behind mesh networking is that rather of individual terminals (phones, tablets and Computers) getting their connectivity via physically wired notes, such as cell towers and WiFi routers, each element in a mesh network is a sender, a receiver and a relayer of information.

Mesh technology extends networks far beyond the reach of the wired connection to the Web. As long as there’s at least one relay chain of nodes, each within range of another, the network extends across fars away.

To set up a chain of notes in the sky is disruptive, but it doesn’t interrupt existing technology or monopoly or anything else other than the absence of technology. Loon disrupts the limitations of poverty and geography. Which’s outstanding.

But if Google wanted to be really disruptive – really the most disruptive thing I can think about – they’d bake Loon-like mesh networking right into Android.

Anyone finding themselves outside the variety of both WiFi and mobile broadband data connections – or anyone who simply can’t afford an information connection, could merely turn on Mesh Networking in the Android phone’s setups, and not only get connectivity but share it with others as well by becoming a node in the network.

Unlike balloons, which can be shot down by repressive governments and which wouldn’t be deployed in locations where cordless carriers have political power, smartphone-based mesh networking might blend into the environment. Authorities and carriers couldn’t tell who’s making use of a certified, paid account and who’s making use of a mesh networking account.

Technically, phone-based mesh networking is possible and has actually been demonstrated.

A job called the Smart Phone Ad-Hoc Networks (PERIOD) used existing WiFi chips in Android phones to produce mesh networking. Networks developed with SPAN enabled not only text based communication after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but likewise VoIP – phone calls over the data network.

The problem with SPAN was that the system had problem functioning with constantly moving areas of phones. So another project to develop a more flexible routing protocol, called the Better-Approach-To-Mobile-Adhoc-Network (BATMAN), was introduced and continues.

Using the BATMAN method, smartphones can connect to each other from up to 100 feet away, and VoIP works up to 5 hops from the physical connection.

Another team of analysts from Australia’s Flinders College discovered a way to extend Android call into the Wilderness and beyond the reach of cell towers.

The geniuses behind this project still appear to be working on this. They call it the Serval job.

These jobs are inadequately funded and restricted in scope. As an outcome, they haven’t cause anything sustainably functional and they are not getting the traction they need to get.

They also don’t have access to the more broadly deployed Android code or have any influence over how Android mobiles are designed and developed.

What Android mesh networking requirements is a big-budget, Google-style “Loon shot” project that results in mesh networking being constructed into every “Google Experience” or “Nexus Experience” phone.

And, come to think of it, I am asking yourself if this ability might be developed into the upcoming Moto X phone everybody other than Google is discussing. According to reports, Google is doing something very ‘different’ with the Moto X, something to do with brand new technology.

Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside even prompted that the new phone would ‘alter people’s lives.’

And finally, we hear that the Moto X phone may be priced really low – as in, targeted at arising markets.

A Moto X phone with built-in mesh networking in which mobile broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity are optional would fit all the reports.

Either method, Google is the right business to traditional mesh networking. And not just any mesh networking, but actually good mesh networking that’s quick, versatile and long-range. Google’s skill with algorithms is probably the key to making mesh networking function well at scale.

Such a function would be the most disruptive deployment of technology in history, putting Internet connection into the hands of the bad, the remote, the oppressed – and bringing life-saving interaction to individuals in disaster locations and throughout power failures.

While Loon balloons can bring Internet connection to remote locations, Android mesh networking could spread it around once it gets there.


(Pictured: Paul Gardner-Stephen, technical architect, co-founder of the Serval Task)


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