Google Balloon Internet Access: The Thrill of a Big Idea

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I nearly missed this. You know how it is. In today’s stimulus-saturated world, I set limits for my daily news scans and then unplug each weekend for 24 hours. So as I approached the unplug deadline after an early morning hour of visual overload (and depressing news), another video didn’t really appeal. But it was from a trusted source in my Google+ circles (thank you, ) so with my left hand on the ‘power down’ button, my right hand clicked play. Wow!

A Big Idea

“The idea does sound crazy, even for Google—so much so that the company has dubbed it Project Loon. But if all works according to the company’s grand vision, hundreds, even thousands, of high-pressure balloons circling the earth could provide Internet to a significant chunk of the world’s 5 billion unconnected souls, enriching their lives with vital news, precious educational materials, lifesaving health information, and images of grumpy cats.”

In an exclusive, Wired magazine goes on to add fascinating details, animations and clips as it tells the story of the initial tests in New Zealand. Just as I was beginning to focus too much on the prevalence of grumpy cats, a breathtaking reminder arrives of the global promise of Internet access.

Next Up: Digital Literacy?

While Google, and hopefully others, work on bringing balloon Internet access to remote areas, digital literacy is looming as a pressing, parallel need. From a local story on Middle-schoolers share technology with seniors, to the national news on the state of broadband access in the U.S., come recent reminders of how many people have been left out.

In case you missed it, the Google Project Loon announcement video on YouTube is embedded below.

Fusing Bikes Into Copenhagen’s Landscape

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Love the look of these new bikesharing stations in Copenhagen’s biker paradise. Couldn’t agree more with Transport magazine’s assessment: “This system design is just plain cool: each bike will be equipped with Wi-Fi and GPS, made interactive with a monitor betwixt the handlebars, providing seamless navigation.”

Wow, Elevated Bike Lanes Could be Coming to London

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I’m just a sucker for a big, bold idea — especially when it combines two priorities, cycling and reducing carbon emissions. So Sam Martin, if London doesn’t jump on this fast enough to suit you, please know there are folks in the USA eager to help you turn this concept into reality.

Can Discounts Convince Londoners [or Vermonters] to Bike and Walk?

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Punch a destination into re:route, a new app from eco-rewards company Recyclebank, and it will provide several options. You could walk to the subway, take it to your stop, pick up a bike from the bike share, and ride to your destination. You could get off the subway a stop early and walk. You could ride your own bike, or walk halfway and pick up a bike to get you the rest of the way there.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Akuppa

Love this idea of offering an app and a ‘rewards’ incentive program for biking or walking around town. It’s a simple concept grounded in human nature — and it can work when others don’t.

I’m thinking Local Motion is a good candidate to bring the concept here to Burlington or the Vermont Bike-Ped Coalition statewide. Now I’m off to get my colleagues on board.

Don’t Reinvent The Wheel, Steal It: An Urban Planning Award for Cities That Copy

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From GOOD, here’s a terrific example of ignoring the ‘standard practice.’ It has always been frustrating to me that the public sector does silos better than most large multinationals — sharing what works just isn’t the norm. So kudos are due to Living Labs Global for encouraging cities to share successful models.

Now let’s just hope the idea catches on….

Put Wind in Your Tank—Vroom!

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Now this is an intriguing new technology from Germany’s ENERTRAG, via the WindSector blog — the hybrid power plant makes hydrogen from wind power to fuel automobiles! The techies among you will want to click through to see the technical drawings on how it works, but I’m hoping the economic development folks will get busy trying to figure out how we can get one going in Vermont, or at least somewhere in New England….