Balloons to Beam Internet Around the World

Universal access to the Internet is one of the keys to the development of many of the most remote communities. Allowing them access to better health options, education, services and key products as well as the development of economic opportunities inaccessible in another way.

Some of the largest technology companies Google, Facebook or Microsoft have tried to bring the Internet to the end of the world, although for now only Google seems firm and successful in its endeavor.

One of his biggest obsessions has always been that take the Internet to the most remote places on the planet. In his own words: “Many of us think of the Network as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not have access to it. ”

Either through using the artificial intelligence capabilities of the Google Assistant in a normal phone call; through the release of large helium balloons into the atmosphere; or with the use of drones, Google perseveres in universalizing access.

According to the report We are digital 2018 , by We Are Social and Hootsuite, Internet users, 4,021 million people, surpass half of the world’s population, standing at 53%, of which 68% of them access through mobile devices. But there is still almost another 50% that does not belong to this global community.

The key is access. According to the latest report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU, the UN’s specialized telecommunications organization) in September 2017, 52% of the world’s population still had no access to the Internet.

Although since 2010 broadband connections have added 1,500 million new users, the global difference between regions with and without Internet access persists. According to the document, “the digital divide runs the risk of becoming a digital abyss. The poorest countries remain disconnected from the rest of the world and the difference between the more and less connected increases. ”

That’s why, and because your business is in it, one of Google’s obsessions has always been to take the Internet to the most remote places.

The most spectacular project of the company to achieve this is Project Loon through Google X that tries to provide universal access through balloons. At first glance it would seem a joke in fact, the name of the project comes from lunatic, but the technology has already launched more than 100 balloons into the atmosphere.

Google Project Loon to Deliver Internet Access in Every Part of the World

The Loon Project to provide Internet access in rural and remote areas using helium balloons with a small communication system that works with solar energy, located in the stratosphere at a height of about 20 kilometers, to create a wireless network aerial with LTE technology (3G or 4G) available in most phones achieving coverage of 80 kilometers in diameter. Balloons travel around the earth guided by an algorithm that analyzes wind currents.

Google started the project on June 17, 2013 with a pilot program in New Zealand, where 12 balloons that operated with solar panels were launched into the stratosphere, allowing the propagation of the Internet signal. Later another 30 of 15 meters in diameter were launched to provide Internet connection by broadcasting WiFi signals that are received by means of an antenna the size of a basketball.

Since then, tests have been conducted in Brazil and Australia, in 2014, and several other tests in South Africa between 2014 and 2016. That year, Google Loon signed an agreement with the Government of Sri Lanka and later with that of Indonesia to bring total coverage to the country.

In all these years, the advances have been spectacular. The navigation technology of the balloons has managed to direct them through 10,000 kilometers and leave them at 500 meters from their target; the position, which was reported once a day, now does it several times per hour.

The duration of the balloons has gone from eight days to more than 100 and they have built a self-launching device that inflates, elevates and launches a balloon in less than 30 minutes.

Until now, its most spectacular and necessary use has been at the end of 2017 after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In October 2017, Google received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 30 balloons from Nevada to reestablish communication on the island, which was literally incommunicado and in the dark.

According to the company, in February 2018 more than 200,000 people had access to the Internet using Google’s balloons.

The technological and operational complexity of Loon demands a patience that seems like Google does not have. In June, using its artificial intelligence capabilities, launched in Colombia My Line, a traditional telephone line that can be called from any device regardless of whether it is an analog, a smartphone or even a landline.

Simply dial a certain number from anywhere in the country and say our question aloud, immediately the Google Assistant will interpret our request and respond it out loud. As if we were asking the search engine on our screen.

According to Jeremy Landis, executive director of Cainkade Studio, a company that technologically supports Google in the project, since the launch of My Line in Beta in May 2018, 35,000 calls to Google Assistant have been made via My Line.

The acceptance of a service in which, being in a remote community and without access to many of the things that we take for granted, an unknown voice responds to a question that is important to you remains to be seen. But technology is making its way into communities that are very young and eager to use them.

These have not been the only projects. Another of Google’s attempts to provide universal access was through the purchase of Titan Aeroespace in 2014 to create a fleet of solar-powered drones, capable of flying more than a week while taking pictures of the surface and providing access to Internet to remote places.

The company sold Titan Aeroespace in early 2017 as, according to Jacquelyn Miller, spokesperson for the company: “After testing, Project Loon has proved to be much more technically and economically viable to reach the rural world and remote geography.”

It was the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, who first declared the purchase of Titan Aerospace at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2014.

According to him, “it is vital for the whole of society that the Network reaches all corners.” But in the end it was Google that acquired the company.

Also Microsoft is in it, in mid-2017 the US technology multinational, presented a new project through which plans to take the Internet to remote places making use of radio frequencies.

The project known as Wireless Regional Area Network (WRAN) uses the digital connection of some televisions, the so-called blank spaces of television channels, to receive and distribute signal to the different devices that connect to it.

For its operation, 600 MHz frequencies are required that were used in the US to broadcast the analogue television signal and that nowadays, with the use of digital platforms, are abandoned. According to the company, this frequency has enough power to be used to provide a stable internet connection.

“Microsoft is working with partners around the world to develop technologies and business models that will make Internet access easier for billions of people,” said Paul Garnett, director of Accessible Access Initiatives at Microsoft.

On a smaller scale, as can be read in the article Telemedicine reaches the Amazon jungle , the TUCAN3G pilot program, led by the Spanish foundation Ehas, in consortium with 10 other European and Latin American partners, has been able to demonstrate how to replace the satellite connection Through long distance WiFi, mobile operators can be established and offer telephony and Internet services to isolated rural communities in the Amazon basin in an innovative and profitable way.

In the platform 5 Apps that revolutionize life in the most remote areas , it shows how connectivity and access to the Internet is key in the development of peoples, both in communications and in making possible the provision of such disparate services and products as financial products or solar lamps for payment in installments or the provision of key information for business. The Internet is a resource that contributes decisively to social and economic development.

At this moment, the only form of connection in certain places is via satellite with devices at prices designed for our pocket, but not for the communities that inhabit those areas.

It is appreciated that a company like Google invest in providing universal Internet access, and for the most suspicious, for that you have to be within your business line and make money with it. Without the expected economic profitability, the sustainability of the project would be questioned, and probably would have stopped its astronomical investment in balloons.

British Airways Apologizes for Massive Theft of Customer Data

The president of British Airways, the Alex Cruz has been forced this Friday to apologize on behalf of his company for the theft of sensitive data from customer credit cards suffered by the company.

The theft occurred through a sophisticated computer attack on its website and its mobile application that lasted two weeks. The IAG shares fell around 3% in the Ibex and the London Stock Exchange after learning of the attack and its dimensions.

The airline, belonging to the International Airline Group (IAG), which also includes Iberia, Vueling and Ireland’s Aer Lingus, discovered on Wednesday that the reservations made between August 21 and September 5 had been intercepted thanks to “a attack very sophisticated, malicious and criminal, “and solved.

During that period, some 380,000 card payments were intercepted and the attackers were able to obtain names, surnames, physical and e-mail addresses, card numbers and their expiration dates and security codes, enough data to make purchases or empty accounts. According to a note published by the company, the stolen data does not include travel or passport data.

Cruz said the airline contacted affected customers as soon as it became aware on Thursday and that the company will compensate financially those who suffer losses, but did not say if any had suffered them already. However, in social networks, some affected have complained that the company had not contacted them.

In any case, on a page created on its website and promoted on its social networks, BA recommends that customers contact their banks and issuers of the cards and follow their recommendations.

In addition, he has brought the matter to the attention of the police and other authorities. Even the prime minister, Theresa May, has intervened in the matter, stating that the government “is aware” of the matter and that the National Center for Cybersecurity and the National Agency against Crime “are working to know exactly what has happened.”

“We are deeply sorry,” Cruz said of the problems caused by the attack, unprecedented in the 20 years in which the airline has had an Internet presence.

The manager has not explained exactly how the data were stolen, although he denied that the attackers had overcome the encryption systems of the firm. “There are other methods, very sophisticated, with which criminals get the data,” he said in an interview on the BBC.

It is not the first time this year that the airline is facing the complaints of its users. Last June, it canceled the reservations of more than 2,000 flights that it sold, erroneously, much cheaper than its usual price, an error that it described as “exceptionally rare”.

In addition, in May and July, hundreds of flights from the London airports of Heathrow and Gatwick were canceled due to computer problems of suppliers.

A little more than a year ago in May 2017, 75,000 customers were left on land in a weekend due to a failure of their computer system at Heathrow Airport, the busiest in Europe, due to a supply problem of Energy. At that time, Cruz said he would take measures so that something like that would not happen again.

Facebook Removes 652 False Pages that are Created to Influence World Politics

The facebook eliminated 652 pages, groups and false accounts of two disinformation campaigns linked organized by Russia and Iran aimed at people worldwide the company announced Tuesday. Unlike the operations identified so far, which originated in Russia now there are two countries that harbor hackers and multiple targets according to the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

“We eliminated 652 pages, groups and accounts for non-authentic coordinated behaviors that originated in Iran and directed through multiple Internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, the United Kingdom and United States,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, director of security on his blog cybernetics of the social network.

Just a few days ago Facebook made 32 pages and false profiles disappear in the social network and on Instagram for integrating a “coordinated” effort to disseminate misinformation around critical political and social issues with Donald Trump.

Although it is still unknown where the pirates came from, whose messages reached 290,000 users, Zuckerberg revealed that the boss keeps some parallels with the performance of Russian hackers during the 2016 campaign. That year they created hundreds of false profiles that shared divisive messages about issues related to race, arms control and the environment the objective was to favor Trump.

The episode of the last presidential elections has alert to the technological companies facing the legislative of November.

The secret services have already warned that there are likely to be attempts of interference by Russian hackers again and they are working to uncover any attack four months after the Americans vote.

The revelation of Facebook comes a day after Microsoft announced that it deleted six websites created by the Russian hacker group APT28.

Two of the fake sites mimicked Washington think tanks that have criticized Russia: the Republican Institute and the Hudson Institute, others claimed to be sites related to the US Senate.

The aim of the hackers was to make users believe that they accessed sites known to them but in reality, they were redirected to fake web pages controlled by them and thus could steal their passwords and other data.

Government of Germany Bans Children’s smartwatches

Many parents and children may think that smartwatches are the star gift this Christmas, but not everyone feels the same ecstasy with this type of colorful products, with large screens and decorated with the favorite cartoons of our children.

These smartwatches are aimed at children between the ages of five and 12 and some question their safety and privacy. The last ones have been the Germans.

The German Federal Internet Agency has banned this month the sale of smartwatches for children who have a function that allows “espionage” and has already taken action against several offers of the product on the Internet.

“We believe that parents use them to spy on their children, through an application and the microphone they include,” the statement read, “and these clocks” can not and should not be used as authorized devices for this type of transmission, which is foreign to the owner of the watch, “explains Jochen Homann, president of the agency in the text.

” Our research on these products discovered, for example, that parents were using them to listen to teachers while teaching their children ” The offer of these watches is very wide in the European market and many of them include a function that allows listening to the conversations of the owner and his surroundings remotely.

As explained in the statement, almost all include a SIM card, with restricted calls as standard, but that can be controlled by an app.

The application, whose drawing is a monitor, usually has a function with which you can access your microphone from remote locations and allows the user to call any number without the child noticing.

This allows the user to eavesdrop on the owner’s conversions. “This type of function, recording conversations without the consent of all the people involved, is forbidden in Germany,” the statement said.

After the decision, it is also recommended that families who have these watches at home get rid of them as soon as possible to avoid risks. In particular, the Agency advises schools to be attentive to whether their students have a watch of this type.

The Agency will act on the sellers and owners of these products. The latter will be notified that they have to destroy them and send evidence to the authorities that they have done so.

After demonstrating that the device has been disabled, the competent authority will send the citizen a ” certificate of destruction “.

This agency is not the only one that has denounced the risks that technological toys have for the little ones, called connected.

Last month, the Norwegian Consumer Council published a report on smartwatches for children, which raised concerns about security flaws and concerns about their privacy, among others.

And last year, consumer groups in the United States reported two products that contained microphones and sent recorded conversations “to marketing and advertising agencies.” One of them, My Friend Cayla, also had a lot of criticism in Germany.