While much of the broadband world focuses on -- and even questions the need for -- the deployment of gigabit networks, US Ignite is working with network operators and technology developers to foster the creation of applications that could best demonstrate the potentially transformative capabilities of those networks.
US Ignite is a public-private partnership between government organizations and a broad range of municipalities, municipally owned utilities, service providers and technology vendors. Partners run the gamut and include AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), EPB Fiber Optics , the cities of Philadelphia and San Francisco, and many more. A full list of partners is available here.
The organization was established in 2012 and is funded by a combination of government funds, membership fees and corporate contributions -- including in-kind support, like providing network facilities to be used for application testbeds or co-hosting events at corporate facilities. Its charter is to spur the creation of applications that showcase the need for gigabit networks.
"We are addressing the fundamental question of 'what good is gigabit?,'" says Joe Kochan, US Ignite's chief operating officer, who says that about 20% of the organization's financial backing comes from public funds. "We're trying to be matchmakers between the network operators out there looking for good applications and the innovators who are building them."
Debate about gigabit networks ranges from pessimism about the networks' ability to spur economic development in communities to dismissal of the need for the high-speed bandwidth they promise. US Ignite's aim is to quell naysayers on all fronts by showing ways the networks can be used. "It will start to explain to people why these networks are so necessary," Kochan says. (See Gigabit Nets Boost GDP, Says FTTH Council and Gigabit: What Is It Good For?)
US Ignite currently is pursuing 40 to 50 development projects, Kochan says, with a goal of helping take about 60 to actual use within the organization's first five years of existence. The applications range from telemedicine and remote sensing for healthcare to augmented reality training for first responders to real-time security monitoring for power grids.
Independent industry analyst Craig Settles, who follows the gigabit networks trend closely and hosts an online radio show called Gigabit Nation, says US Ignite's activity could help prove the utility of gigabit networks, including those partially funded by government stimulus programs.
"The value of any of these networks is primarily dependent on what people do with them," Settles says. "If you can create an environment in which you can accelerate the development of applications, you accelerate the payback for the network."
To that end, Kochan says, US Ignite's primary aim is to help create applications that could make an impact in the public sector.
"We tend to focus on applications with public benefit," he says. "We think the real power of these networks is going to come from solving complex problems in areas like healthcare and education."
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, Light Reading