Google’s Project Loon connects 100k in Puerto Rico
Although many view the Internet as a global phenomenon, more than half of the world’s population are still without Internet access. Project Loon is an initiative by Google designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide, using a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space. The new technology can not only help fill coverage gaps but it can also help to bring people back online after disasters, as seen in Puerto Rico after cellphone towers were knocked out by Hurricane Maria.
“In times of crisis, being able to communicate with loved ones, emergency services and critical information is key,” – Alastair Westgarth, project lead at Project Loon
A Loon balloon on its way to Puerto Rico from Nevada
This is the second time Loon has been tested during a disaster relief effort with balloons sent to flood zones in Peru last year. The balloons have helped enable texts, emails and basic web access, however Alphabet, Google’s parent company, have stressed that Loon is still new and unpredictable despite the recent success.
How does Loon work?
Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space. The Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as air planes and the weather. In the stratosphere, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed, the balloons go where they’re needed by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel.
Google has partnered with various telecoms companies to share cellular spectrum to allow people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. The signal is then passed across the balloon network and back down to the global Internet on Earth.
5G government competition with million pound grants
5G is expected to be capable of delivering extremely fast data with estimates between 10 – 50 Gbit/s compared with today’s average 4G download speed of 15 Mbit/s. In fact, back in 2013 Samsung tested 5G at 1Gbps and journalists reported that a HD movie could be downloaded in less than 30 seconds. In 2014,Samsung set a mobile speed record of 7.5Gb/s in another 5G trail, while estimates predict the speed will reach 10Gb/s, with transfer rates as high as 800Gb/s further down the line, taking your download time of a full length film to around a second!
“We are determined to be one of the first countries in the world to use 5G. In these very early stages we want all ideas, from all parts of the country, that will help us get the technology and the roll-out right to have a nationwide network of 5G innovators.” – Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital
Fast track to 2017 and the government is hoping that the UK will be ‘at the forefront of 5G’, with a new competition ‘5G Testbeds and Trials’. The competition aim is to encourage the development of a UK ‘5G ecosystem’ with technology and deployment, testbeds and trials to stimulate the development of 5G use cases and business models. Applicants will have the chance to win grant funding of between £2 million and £5 million, out of the £25 million total budget.
“ The Programme is designed to help address some of society’s biggest challenges, such as those faced in health and social care, focusing on areas where the Government’s role can have the most impact. ” – Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital
Two groups of organisations will make use of Testbeds: connectivity providers and their supply chains; and industry and public sectors that could uncover new ways of working with 5G capabilities. Here are some examples:
The competition opened on October 23rd 2017, and will close registration on December 6th 2017.
After six years of trial and error, Samsung, could be the first company to commercially launch a ‘foldable phone’. In 2011, Samsung’s prototype was able to remain intact after a whopping 100,000 folds with only a 6% drop in brightness at centre (where all the folding happened), however various manufacturing issues prevented the real deal – until now.
Rumour has it, the South Korean multinational giant could be releasing two new devices, known as the ‘Samsung Galaxy X’ series at the CES consumer technology show in January, 2018. The devices will have a foldable 4K display, so that the resolution will remain high even when the phone is folded. Supposedly, one version will fold from a 5″ handset to an 8″ tablet, while the second version will fold in half to become more compact. Below is a video of Samsung’s futuristic ambitions:
Further whispers suggest that the foldable devices will initially be released in Korea to see demand levels for a flexible phone. Hopefully Samsung’s latest venture won’t go down in flames…
Renowned for being short and sweet, Twitter may move away from it’s 140 character limit, originally inspired by SMS lengths, to double the amount. The trial of the new limit came after a loss of around £87 million in the most recent quarter and a slight decline of users – which had already been at a stand still of about 320 million for some time. As Twitter is a free platform, the money needs to come in from businesses buying advertising space.
Unfortunately, advertisers are heading to other platforms as they can provide far more content to users without a 140 character restriction. Hence the move to 280 characters. Twitter also hopes the increase will keep users on the platform for a longer amount of time. However, critics believe the online news and social networking service may risk removing the very essence of the platform and push away loyal users who choose Twitter for being concise.
Later on today, Snapchat will be revealing it’s augmented reality art platform. The platform’s main star is Jeff Koons, an American artist known for working with popular culture subjects and his reproductions of banal objects—such as balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces.
“Discover Koons’s innovative digital installations scattered across the world to experience them for yourself, and learn a little more about them”
How does it work?
The platform will show a special Lens when you are nearby a piece of Snapchat ART. An indicator will then direct you until the location marker is in the frame, at which point you’ll seen the pinned art in full augmented reality.
Most excitingly however is the opportunity for up and rising artists to feature on the platform and have their art pinned and displayed to the 173 million users active on Snapchat everyday.
Check back at the blog for further news on Snapchat’s AR launch.
Apple has released three new iPhones: the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The iPhone X is the latest generation of Apple’s flagship device, featuring a whole new design and Face ID technology to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Apple iPhones. While the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus offer an upgrade from the previous iPhone 7 and iPhone Plus, including an all-glass design and wireless charging.
Left – Right: iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8
The iPhone X features radical changes in design from the edge-to-edge display to the removal of the home button. While the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus still have the traditional iPhone look, accompanied by a new all-glass and aluminium design which Apple claims is the “most durable glass on any smartphone”. All three of the new models are water and dust resistant. Surprisingly, Apple has dropped the popular Jet Black and Rose Gold colour choices. Instead the iPhone X will be available in Silver and Space Grey, and the iPhone 8/8 Plus will be available in Silver, Space Grey and Gold.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus both have Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip, but without the Neural Engine of that fitted to the iPhone X, have improved screens with the company’s True Tone feature, improved speakers and keep the traditional home button with Touch ID 2 fingerprint scanner. The new iPhone X on the other hand features facial recognition technology that uses your face as a secure new way to unlock your iPhone and authenticate and pay with Apple Pay. The new technology is enabled by the TrueDepth camera and is simple to set up. It projects and analyses more than 30,000 invisible dots to create a precise depth map of your face. Better yet, the facial recognition has the ability to adapt to physical changes in your appearance over time, for example needing glasses. The TrueDepth camera also analyses more than 50 different muscle movements so that your expressions can be mirrored into 12 Animojis.
The new iPhones do not require a charging cable and will work with Qi wireless chargers that are commonly found in hotels, cafes, airports and cars. Belkin and Mophie have also developed two new wireless chargers designed for the iPhone 8, while Apple’s new ‘AirPower’ mat will let you charge multiple devices wirelessly once released in 2018. This means that you’ll be able to simply set your iPhone down when it needs a boost and remove the worry of remembering and carrying your plugs and cables when you’re on the move.