Space commerce. Its not yet a reality, but PayPal believes it to be an inevitability. Wi-Fi from on high. Google is building a network of huge helium balloons to connect people. Technology seems to be going up, literally!
On 27 July 2013, PayPal launched PayPal Galactic – an initiative to examine the commercialisation of space: “What we once deemed to be science fiction has become a reality. Space travel is opening up for “the rest of us” thanks to Virgin Galactic, Space X and a host of other space tourism programs including the Space Hotel that hopes to be in orbit by 2016. The enabling infrastructure pieces are starting to come together, and as we start planning to inhabit other planets, the practical realities of life still need to be addressed.”
It does have a faintly ridiculous overtone, realistically how many of us are really going to be able to afford to go into space and, for those who can, why can’t accounts simply be charged when back on Earth? However, what is undeniably interesting will be the nature of such discussions, even on a theoretical level, that will look at legal, practical and technological concerns.
Not quite back on earth, somewhere around 20 kilometers above terra firma to be exact, Google is trialing Project Loon. A slightly absurd name that would raise suspicions were it April 1, however this is a legitimate experimental program with the aim of providing “balloon-powered internet for everyone”. With more direct application than PayPal Galactic (at least for now), Project Loon will offer the chance for people in remote and/or poor areas to be able to connect to the internet cheaply. The trial is currently underway in New Zealand, with plans to extend it to Australia and Argentina in 2014.
Whilst both of these initiatives are both in their infancy with their direct relevance likely to be years off (if at all), what is undeniably of interest is the way that technology and communications are developing and how big companies like PayPal and Google are thinking. Whilst you really don’t need to seriously start thinking about how you may want to position your business to take advantage of business opportunities in space, it is worth keeping in mind that technology is constantly changing and businesses do need to adapt. Who knows, you may actually find yourself well placed to be one of the first companies operating in space!