Google: Drones & balloons to aid connection issues

Google plans would use military style drones to deliver internet access to everyone around the world. Picture: Getty

Google plans would use military style drones to deliver internet access to everyone around the world. Picture: Getty

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GOOGLE’S head of product has used a keynote speech to lay out the company’s plans to solve global connectivity problems, including weather balloons and drones that will carry internet signals.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress technology show in Barcelona, Sundar Pichai said that Google wants to get the entire world online.

He said: “There are four billion people in the world that don’t have access to connectivity. We want to do better with this. At Google, we’re taking the same approach to connectivity as our other projects.”

Mr Pichai spoke of a three-point plan to help bring internet access to everyone in different locations around the world. These include Google Fiber (fibre-optic broadband for urban areas), plus Project Loon, which is the firm’s ongoing ­experiment involving weather balloons that act as floating ­signal towers.

He said: “Loon is a huge undertaking, and we’ve made huge progress. Two years ago, we could hardly keep the balloon up for three days, and it served 3G. We knew we needed to stay up for three months; today we’re up in the air for six months.”

The third point of Google’s plan was also briefly previewed. Called Project Titan, it will ­involve using high-flying drones carrying internet signals. A similar proposal from Facebook-backed internet.org, a group ­trying to connect the whole world to the internet, is already being developed.

Mr Pichai also commented on the smartphone battle between Apple and Samsung – the latter uses Google’s Android mobile operating system.

“We knew the iPhone 6 would be big for Apple; we’ve known for a long time that phones with big screens do very well. Mobile isn’t a zero sum game, it’s a great time for smartphones overall. Samsung is a great company, the Galaxy S6 represents the state of the art in smartphones.”

Following the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in September last year, Apple reported record sales and profits for the quarter, while Samsung saw full-year profits fall.

On Sunday, Samsung unveiled the S6 and S6 edge – which has a screen that curves onto the sides of the device – as the new competitors to the iPhone. Both devices have a full-metal body for the first time.

Mr Pichai added that he expected Apple to “do something great” with the Apple Watch, which is set to be launched in April following a live event in California next week. Google’s Android Wear is already used in a number of smartwatches on the market, including Motorola and LG’s wearables.

He concluded his speech by saying that he thought such ­devices were a big part of the ­future of mobile.

He said: “Most computing has been focused on automating things in people’s lives; I think we can do much more intelligent things than that and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

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