Innovative project is bringing high-speed internet to the developing world via beams of infrared light. The latest invention from Alphabet, which owns google and much else, deploys giant towers that use light to send data, like a fibre-optic cable without the cable.
There are more than 3 billion people in the world who still lack access to the internet. Many of them live in remote areas with rough terrain where deploying conventional internet infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables, is a difficult and expensive undertaking.
But X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory, is now testing an approach that overcomes these obstacles - literally. The venture’s latest invention, which is currently being piloted in India and Africa, is using invisible beams of light to send data over long distances without cables.
The ambitious project - called Project Taara - is driven by the mission to bring fast and affordable internet access to some areas where other options aren’t available. Similar to fibre optic cables, which also use light to carry data, the new approach uses air instead of wires. Small boxes equipped with electrical, communication, and optical tech, placed at high altitudes, send out infrared light in a beam roughly the diametre of a chopstick to another terminal as far as 12 miles away. The interaction between the two terminals creates a new zone of wireless connectivity in the area, enabling people to connect to the web.
To prevent the beam from interruptions, the terminals are placed high above people and trees. And the team - which is no stranger to developing innovative solutions to bring internet access to the developing world - says the technology’s signal is strong enough to remain reliable in the face of problematic weather conditions, such as smog, dust, or rain.
And while it probably doesn’t make sense to use the tech in areas where other options are possible, in some places it could begin to bring users online to access services like tele-medicine, agricultural help for farmers, and online learning (and funny animal videos!)