Confirming rumors, SpaceX has announced that they will be receiving a hefty $900 million investment from Google to help push the internet into orbit with a myriad of satellites. At a valuation of $12 billion, Google would hold roughly 7.5% in the burgeoning space company, joining existing investors including Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn. The announcement comes with little surprise as Elon Musk and Google have long shared ambitions to swaddle the Earth in high-speed Internet access, albeit for different reasons.
Google – having extremely deep pockets – is never one to try just one method of something and give up. Project Loon was their first stab at global internet and utilized large automated balloons floating around the Earth to act as ‘cells’ to send data to users. The company has also dropped $500 million into Skybox Imaging, a micro-satellite company for improving global imaging. Google’s reasoning is obvious – more internet = more users = more data to sell.
SpaceX on the other hand?
They want to get your ass to Mars, and below is one of the best theories of why.
CAD, Anywhere, Anytime
Lots of interesting ideas come to mind when one imagines a place where Internet is as freely available as oxygen.
For CAD modelers, remote working in Tristan da Cunha, the most isolated island in the world, is completely feasible. I think other uses, like 100% cloud-based computing would have a tremendous impact on the working environment. For machines, there are some interesting applications; Machine-to-Machine learning, where one machine learns from another’s mistakes, becomes a certainty, as all machines would be independent of the need for any user to have to set up net-connection. Tooling patterns, or even having your machine ‘clear’ a model for fabrication (to dissuade users from using copyrighted CAD models) are completely possible.
The key problem is lag – satellites in Low-Earth Orbit are far enough that the period of time between sending and receiving commands become quite noticeable. If using Solidworks 2013 on a woefully low-powered netbook is familiar to you, as it has been for a friend of mine, then you know what problems SpaceX+Cloud-based Computing could be. But storing all files on the Cloud? Sure thing. FEA simulation using Cloud Computing. But of course.
Really, when you don’t have a choice in being connected or not, the economies of scale for these services change, much like the near future of Cloud-based CAD.