What to expect from the Gigabit Explorer Challenge

Gigabit Internet has arrived, and it's time to figure out just what we should do with it. A gigabit is a billion bits per second. Average Internet speeds today range around 5 million bits per second. It's a bit of a speed mismatch, the cheetah vs. the caterpillar -- and the cheetah gets a head start. At these speeds, the "what" and "how" to use it far outreach the way we use the Internet today.

Forget the speed, for a moment. Not to downplay the value of instantaneously downloading a season of The Wire but ultrafast Internet is about more than speed. Innovation grew in the space where 50 kbps Internet was once seen as lightning fast -- a space with email, file transfers and remote logins. What modernization will emerge from this new space?

A Fresh New World

We'll need to use the same imagination that led us to ask:

  • Wouldn't it be cool to have a phone you could carry in your pocket?
  • Wouldn't it be convenient to just send a letter through your computer?
  • How awesome would it be to play video games against people all over the world?

Susan Crawford of the US Ignite Application Summit, the entity collecting gigabit thinkers for collaboration in Kansas City in November, hopes to blow our minds with this proclamation: "The introduction of gigabit networks will be as different from our current experience as the world before electricity and afterwards; before telephone and afterwards. Before the Internet, and afterwards".

So what kind of fresh new world should the innovators invited to this summit aspire to?

The Power Of A Gigabit App

It'll start with the construction of gigabit apps. Not to get too technical, but a gigabit app is capable of much more than flicking bird heads for points. From 3D technology to grounds management to medical innovation, there's a lot to be covered.

For the Gigabit Explorer Challenge in Kansas City, check out the tools innovators will get:

  • Google Fiber Internet -- A gigabit of web magic.
  • Distributed Cloud Resources -- Cloud computing, with the cloud all over the network.
  • Technology advisors -- They'll be on hand to help perpetuate the ideas.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski wrote a post for Forbes in January that connected dots between jobs, innovation and start-up action, and the presence of gigabit speeds.

What a Gig Could Do?

Here are three gigabit ideas I'd love to be part of our everyday norm:

3D data

Obstacle, gone: One day, kids won't remember what it was like to load an image. A single, simple image.

Reality: Gigabit speed will allow for instant download of a multitude of images. Imagine an exploration of molecular structures, celestial bodies or even a blender in an online auction.

What else?: Research and development would find a tool to help build, visualize and edit concepts before they're sent to production. 3D modeling will find a whole new dimension.


Obstacle, gone: The restriction of the four walls of a classroom.

Reality: Why study a foreign language from a textbook when you can immerse yourself in a country where it's spoken? Instant connectivity will make the world your classroom.

What else?: Students in the U.S. could collaborate on projects with those in Pakistan, Indonesia and Spain, with each student's contributions showing in real time, in all four nations.


Obstacle, gone: Latency, connectivity problems, any fear of a shoddy connection.

Reality: App development could lead to mobile MRI, X-ray and ultrasound technology, and open a world of specialists available to collaborate in the diagnosis of a patient anywhere.

What else?:  Residents in assisted-living facilities could be monitored via mobile devices by their care givers and families. Predictive apps could signal users when a health concern looms.

Google's Not the Only Speedster In Town

It's not just Google riding the gigabit train. CenturyLink has unveiled a gigabit Internet connection in Las Vegas. Genachowski envisions a gigabit city in every state of the union by 2015. FiOS Internet is available around a dozen major cities on the east and west coast of the U.S.

The speed is here. And it just might take you places you never thought you'd go.

Photo Credit: Krivosheev Vitaly/Shutterstock

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