Different players across the globe are invested in connecting millions of off-line consumers in areas that are under-served by infrastructure and lack reliable power.
Microsoft’s local project dubbed Mawingu is targeting connectivity to schools, libraries and rural townships while leveraging an agent network with the last mile consumption happening via wi-fi.
Google has Project Loon where they have clocked over 17 million kilometers in test flights to date with research teams deploying a network of helium filled balloons cruising on the edge of space with a connectivity payload. Project loon has reported solid data transmission between balloon nodes that are over 100 kilometers apart with connection speeds hitting 10 Mbps.
In early November 2016, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab team reported success using the millimeter-wave portion of the radio frequency spectrum where they recorded a data transfer rate 20 Gbps over a 13 kilometer terrestrial point-to-point link. Combined with Aquila, their solar powered fleet of aircraft that can stay airborne for extended periods of up to 90 days and swath 95 kilometers of ground with connectivity, that last mile is getting shortened daily.
A key component of these projects is the use of renewable or low footprint energy sources coupled with an open source pedigree that means affordable adapted forks can be made for alternative use cases. Here is where my thought for today comes. While the focus is on the rural unconnected, I imagine applications of the technologies that can drive us to a smart cities utopia. Remember that our cities and towns are not large and there also exist multiple fibre backbones. Here are the ways.
The movement of people in pursuit of opportunity and that of things in the fulfillment cycle takes up the largest percentage of daily activity. We need intelligent motion powered by “subconscious” big data.
We need to measure everything and we need to measure it continuously. Our air quality, water purity, noise levels among others have a direct impact on our productivity and well-being.
Our collective gut boosted by a smart deployment of artificial intelligence, facial recognition and a host of other tech can only truly be optimized by real-time data from a variety of sources to inform an opinion.
We make grave assumptions on the availability of mobile networks that we have come to rely on in the event of disasters. We must plan for alternate independent yet connected communication networks.
Within urban settings the density of devices, nodes and sensors will continue to grow and this network of things, needs its own dedicated infrastructure if we are to realize an improved quality of life, peace of mind and also support continued economic development.
These early stage projects hold great promise.