Google's global Internet initiative Project Loon gets off the ground
The Internet search behemoth, Google, says it is now close to being able to launch thousands of units as part of its Project Loon initiative
The company is building up its capacity for producing and launching balloons capable of delivering Internet access, and is close to being able to roll out thousands of units, according to reports.
Project Loon, Google’s initiative for providing balloon-based Internet access, was announced in 2013 and in the video, released via the project’s Google Plus homepage, project lead engineer Mike Cassidy highlighted the progress that has been made since then.
Cassidy noted that initially it took several days to manufacture a balloon, but Google’s manufacturing facility now uses automated systems to reduce that to a few hours.
From one balloon launch per day, Google can now launch dozens per day from a single crane, according to Cassidy. “We’re getting close to the point where we can roll out thousands of balloons,” he said.
The company is now able to predict when and where the balloons will descend to the surface in order to retrieve them, Cassidy said.
Google said last month the balloons are currently able to remain in the air for up to six months.
Speaking about the project, a Vodafone New Zealand representative said Project Loon would be made use of by “cell phone companies and Internet companies,” suggesting that services may be offered via third parties rather that directly from the search company.
Google is also trialing the system with Telstra in Australia and Telefonica in Latin America; with the aim of delivering Internet access to areas where it might not otherwise be economically viable, such as in sparsely populated regions. Each balloon can in theory provide Internet access to an area of about 780 square miles.
The balloons have flown even into arctic and tropical areas, according to Cassidy. “Anyone with a smartphone anywhere in the world will be able to get Internet access,” he said.
Facebook has also invested in expanding Internet access via its Internet.org project, and has said it plans to use solar-powered unmanned vehicles for the project. Facebook acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace last March.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.