Alphabet has landed and deflated its balloon fleet of Loon, a 9-year subsidiary project working to bring internet access to remote and underserved areas via patch antennas mounted to balloons. In the announcement, Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth cited the company’s inability to lower costs and acquire sufficient partners in order to build a long-term sustainable business model as the key factor in its downfall. Loon’s goal of bringing connectivity to the “last billion users,” those that would be the most difficult to reach, is admirable and its pioneering efforts launched an ecosystem for solving connectivity problems across the globe. Altio hopes that Alphabet will continue to employ Loon’s ground-breaking innovations for other projects. Already, Loon’s technology has been employed in another X moonshot, Project Taara, by using beams of light to focus on the scalability of “last billion” connectivity solutions. A fully connected world is full of innovation and change, so we hope Loon lives on through other connectivity projects.
Twitter introduced Birdwatch, a community-driven approach to flagging misinformation. As an attempt to bring more voices and context into Twitter’s fact-checking, Birdwatch is currently in pilot mode in the US, where participants can add notes, provide context, and rate others’ fact-checks. Birdwatch is clearly a response to the overwhelming criticism that social media giants, including Twitter, faced after banning Donald Trump earlier this month. Accused of being too authoritarian in their decision to remove accounts and tweets, the crowd-sourced Birdwatch will open the crusade against misinformation up to the public, with algorithms and data publicly available. Will other social media outlets follow suit? Is community-driven supervision sufficient to appease tech regulators? Altio thinks crowd-sourced monitoring and fact-checking could be a temporary solution to fend off regulatory backlash. We have previously mentioned that many social media giants are turning towards self-regulation and amending practices to be compliant with impending regulations, and this trend seems to be continuing.
While we were all still distracted by Apple’s possible partnership with Hyundai Motor Company, BlackBerry and Baidu, Inc. expanded their partnership to develop more robust software that will be implemented into GAC MOTOR New Energy Aion models. Blackberry’s QNX Neutrino real-time operating system will handle the functional safety and network security while Baidu will be leaning into AI and integrating its high-definition maps, equipping GAC with an incredibly smart autonomous driver. Blackberry’s transition away from handheld device and towards intelligent cybersecurity software and services has repositioned the once-defunct company as a lead player in automobile operating systems. Blackberry’s QNX is already in over 175 million vehicles, and the integration with GAC will only heighten the company’s reputation and success. Altio thinks it’s quite interesting to see a Canada-based company integrated into Chinese state-owned automaker, a seemingly jarring contradiction to Xi’s calls for “indigenous innovation,” particularly in light of our recent article on Public-Private Sector Relations in China.