Mystery barge bets see floating data center as shoe-in

Bettors see Google Glass showroom, space elevator and self-driving barges are long-shots

A well-known bookmaker is taking bets on what Google will do with its mystery barges, and so far floating data centers are a shoe-in with some interesting wages coming in as long shots.

PaddyPower, an Irish bookmaker known for offline and online betting on questions like who will be Microsoft's next CEO and who will be Time magazine's Person of the Year, is taking bets on Google's plans for the barges.

Most participants in the Google contest are betting that the mystery barges in San Francisco and Portland, Maine, are floating data centers.

At this point the 11 to 10 odds mean that a $110 wager that the barges house data centers would net a profit of $100.

At odds of 3-1, the next most popular bet is that the barges house a Project Loon test facility.

Google's Project Loon aims to connect people in rural areas via a network of hot air balloons. Google in June launched 30 high-altitude balloons above the Canterbury area of New Zealand as part of a pilot test to connect 50 rural users to connect the Internet.

A center for research on a neural network, computing systems modeled on biological central nervous systems, is the next best bet, coming in at 6-1 odds.

Some observers have surmised that the barges are going to carry floating showcases for Google X projects, like Google Glass. People betting with PaddyPower aren't so sure about that one, though, as a lab for Google Glass comes in at 12-1 odds.

Google is working on software for self-driving cars, but not many think a self-driving barge in the works. That comes in at 20-1, while the longest shot -- at odds of 500-1 -- is that the barges are a platform for space elevator launch pads.

Each of the barges carry a large structure seemingly comprised of shipping containers. A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard station in Portland, Me. told Computerworld that work will begin on the barge in Maine when construction is finished on the one in San Francisco.

Fueling speculation about the project is that along with Google, the Coast Guard and local harbormasters have remained mum of the plans for the barges. .

While one Coast Guard representative said the project is tied to Google, he quickly retracted the statement, noting that the Coast Guard had signed a non-disclosure agreement about the project.

The Maine Port Authority, the mayor of Portland, the construction company working on the Portland barge, as well as the tugboat company that brought it into the harbor all are either saying no comment or say they have no knowledge about the project.

Both barges are owned by By and Large LLC, a company formed in 2012 in Delaware. The company has no known address or phone number.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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