Skip to main content

Google's "secret project": Is mystery San Francisco barge a floating data centre or pop-up Google Glass store?

A mysterious four-story floating barge in the San Francisco Bay has caused speculation that Google is building either a floating data centre or a popup-style shop to sell its Google Glass (opens in new tab) intelligent eyewear.

Referred to by many locals as "the secret project," the barge is built using shipping containers, something not uncommon for structures of this kind. Companies like Cisco, Dell and Hewlett-Packard (opens in new tab) already use them to install data centres, as they are simple and easy to set up.

Google obtained a patent for a 'water-based data center' in 2009 (opens in new tab), but has refused to comment so far on the structure. The patent outlines a telecommunications and storage system that is sea-powered and environmentally-friendly.

Specifically, the patent describes: "A floating platform-mounted computer data center comprising a plurality of computing units, a sea-based electrical generator in electrical connection with the plurality of computing units, and one or more sea-water cooling units for providing cooling to the plurality of computing units."

Data centres require large amounts of cooling in order to keep servers at the correct operating temperature, and by using a barge there would be an abundant supply of water for this purpose.

Other ideas surrounding the barge include the possibility of a Google Glass store, which would be sent from city to city by rivers as a floating retail centre.

Despite Google being unwilling to confirm whether or not it is responsible for this project, further proof of its involvement came when photos of a boat resembling Google co-founder Larry Page's personal yacht docked on the same pier that the mystery structure is being built.

The construction began last year behind a high security fence, but some reports claim that it has temporarily stopped in recent weeks as the barge lacks a permit to park on the waterfront.