The solution: really big balloons.
It’s easy to take the Internet for granted. We carry most of the world’s information in our pockets and can access it with the swipe of a finger.
But we forget that two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t have access to this marvel of human achievement!
Well, that might no longer be the case.
Highly secretive scientists at “X,” a subsidiary of Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) formerly known as “Google X,” are trying to fix this problem. They’re plugging away to make sure that the rest of the world’s population without Internet, gets it.
And instead of building cellular towers into the earth, they’re doing it by launching giant balloons that can reach these remote areas, wherever they happen to be.
Don’t worry about little Mikey shooting down this science project with his model rocket kit, though. These floating Internet gateways travel on the edge of space!
The project, called “Loon,” deploys a network of balloons that travel around in the stratosphere, or roughly twice as high as airplanes and the weather.
The balloons act as a mobile cellular tower, allowing phones and other cellular devices to connect and get Internet. It’s well-suited for areas where traditional cellular infrastructure isn’t available due to cost.
Remember when XM & Sirius satellite radio was the next big thing because you could get radio anywhere? Well, investors quickly forgot about the costs of deploying satellites which can range from $50-$400 million.
When 3G and 4G LTE cellular networks rolled out on much cheaper ground infrastructure, streaming radio services over the internet crushed the satellite radio industry. It’s still trying to recover today.
The only problem is that in rural and remote parts of the world, it isn’t cost effective for telecom companies to build ground infrastructure.
Large tech companies such as Microsoft and Facebook have rolled out programs to subsidize the access to internet in areas where it is less affordable.
How charitable, right?
Well, not exactly.
Facebook’s “Free Basics” program was recently blocked in India because it only offered access to a handful of sites (mainly their own), which violated net neutrality policies.
The Loon project, however, expects to receive approval in India soon, simply because it does not restrict access to only preferred sites.
Charity and neutrality aside, the end state for these large tech companies is clear.
It’s basically the new age golden rule. And I don’t mean the one about treating your neighbor as you’d want to be treated. I mean the other one: He who owns the gold, makes the rules.
In this case, just replace “gold” with “network infrastructure.”
The new 21st century currency is data, and those who own and control the infrastructure it rides over will have a considerable advantage in the marketplace over those who don’t.
In March, I wrote about the land rush going on where large tech companies are looking to set up their own high speed fiber infrastructure.
Like the NSA, these companies aren’t peering into your private conversation data (well, not officially at least).
However, they are collecting the “metadata” on your network usage in bulk to store, analyze, and re-sell.
Metadata doesn’t show your actual message or conversation. It’s all the information surrounding the message data that describes it. This can include the type of device it was sent from, the type of software on the device, your GPS location (if enabled), and timestamps on messages. And that’s just for starters.
With this data, large tech companies are able to apply behavioral analytics and determine tailored ad campaigns to send to specific people. The idea is that you’ll get an offer that seems too good to refuse.
Ever get a pop-up message on your smart phone from one of your apps offering a discount at a store you just happen to be near? You can thank metadata for that.
All the conspiracy theories aside, there is one constant. The amount of data we produce and consume is growing everyday, and tech companies are lining up around the block to make sure they’re providing it to us.
The market for data storage and infrastructure alone is sitting at $36 Billion. That’s expected to double by 2020.
Now I just need to figure out how to generate some metadata that blocks all political ads, and I’ll be set!
Editor, BioTech Intel Trader