UPDATED 11:00 EDT / APRIL 07 2014

New Facebook infrastructure, key acquisitions towards connecting the globe

Facebook has about a billion monthly active users, making it the most used social networking platform in the world.  Yet despite its high number of monthly active users, Facebook has yet to hook all seven billion people on this earth. In order to do so, Facebook’s participating in a string of initiatives to not only connect the world to the web, but to its network as well. Here’s a recap of the latest developments Facebook’s rolled out as it establishes the infrastructure and talent needed to support a truly global platform.

anywhere global holding world globe

Flying drones, satellites for connectivity

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Facebook wants to reach people living in remote areas where Internet connectivity is a privilege. In order to do so, the social networking giant plans to launch drones, satellites and the emerging free-space optical communications protocol, carrying internet equipment.  This will allow earth-bound mobile devices to connect to a microwave beam for web access.  The drones will be solar powered and will be able to fly for weeks at a time.

In a recent white paper, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed the need for such drones in his company’s efforts to serve more people in developing markets, noting the obstacles involved with traditional infrastructure methods.

“The parts of the world without access to 2G or 3G signals are often some of the most remote places on Earth, where physical access to communities is difficult. Deploying the same infrastructure here that is already found in urban environments is uneconomical as well as impractical,” Zuckerberg wrote.

The drones are a result of Facebook’s acquisition of Ascenta, a UK-based company that specializes in making drones “ideal for border surveillance, anti-poaching, communications intercept or private comms.”

Shhhhhh……

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Facebook has been on a spending spree lately with its $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, and another $2 billion of cash and shares for Oculus VR.

secret messageRumors were rampant last week regarding Facebook’s intent to acquire Secret, an app that lets people share whatever they want, anonymously.  Facebook is said to be offering $100 million to purchase Secret, but people familiar with the social giant’s plans shut down the rumors (see here for details).

However, it’s been said that Facebook could be working on its own secret-sharing service, as such anonymous apps gain popularity. Given Facebook’s notorious partnerships with third party services like Spotify that require Facebook credentials just to set up an account, Facebook could be hedging its bets with a secret-sharing app that protects the identity of a user.

Another route Facebook could consider is to allow users to log into third party apps and services with a handle, instead of their Facebook username.  This way, people can enjoy more services and apps without having to worry about their friends finding out that their guilty pleasure song is Rockstar by Nickelback, or that they enjoy the occasional episode of My Little Pony and Friends.

DeepFace

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You’ve probably been tagged in hundreds of photos from your friends, acquaintances, or strangers, if your Facebook account isn’t private.  You may have seen photos where you were tagged but you don’t see yourself in it.  Yes, Facebook’s facial recognition is flawed, especially when people aren’t facing the camera, but Facebook is currently working on new facial recognition technology that can identify faces accurately, reportedly up to 97.25 percent.

anonymity faceless womanFacebook’s R&D team developed DeepLearning, a program that identifies facial features using algorithms and creating a 3D model based on available photographs.  Facebook’s network is then scanned to compare the 3D model to complete the identification process.

DeepFace is said to be the closest any facial recognition technology has come to human’s ability of accurately recognizing people’s faces.  On the average, humans can recognize people’s faces by 97.53 percent, and those with an eidetic memory score even higher.

The algorithm used in this technology is said to be greater than what other services, such as Google+, is using, able to recognize faces even at an angle.  This technology could be useful in identifying suspects or people of interest in surveillance cameras, but it can also be a cause for concern for those who want to keep a low profile on Facebook.

A Facebook spokesperson clarified that the company does not intend to introduce DeepFace to its service anytime soon, but if the technology is as good as it claims to be, there’d be little reason for Facebook to keep it under wraps.

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