Facebook is using AI to decide where to beam its free Internet


Ken Yeung

March 8, 2016

Facebook is using artificial intelligence to give it a better sense of where humans live across the world. The technology is allowing the social networking company to create “much more accurate population maps” across 21.6 million square kilometers of Earth compared to traditional population maps. By doing so, Facebook can understand where to send its solar-powered planes to beam down Internet access.

In a Facebook post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said 15.6 billion satellite images were analyzed with AI to create a better map to highlight where communities are. He said that the results of its mapping will be shared “openly with the community so other organizations can use them too,” which will benefit those planning energy, health, and transport infrastructure, as well as in times of disaster.

Of course the main reason Facebook did it is to give the company accurate data to target those around the world who don’t have Internet access. As Zuckerberg pointed out in his post, “Many people live in remote communities and accurate data on where people live doesn’t always exist.” The information gathered will be used to direct the company’s solar-powered plane Aquila so that it can efficiently beam down Internet connectivity people can use to communicate using their mobile device.

Connecting the next 5 billion people has been a mission for Zuckerberg, especially as he seeks to further his Internet.org initiative. When he was in India, the Facebook CEO revealed that the company’s efforts has helped bring 15 million people online worldwide. He has also repeatedly called for universal Internet access, saying that it’s “a vital enabler of jobs, growth, and opportunity.” Additionally, he said, “research tells us that for every 10 people connected to the Internet, about 1 is lifted out of poverty.”


This article was written by Ken Yeung from VentureBeat and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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