Friday, October 26, 2007

Follow Up: The 100 meg Intranet & Innovation

Thursday's press event announcing the hiring of Alcatel to provide electronics for the Lafayette Fiber To The Home network touched of some thoughts that didn't fit into yesterday's media review post... Here are a few on the 100 meg Intranet & Innovation

The Advocate quotes Durel as saying:

Having such a unique capability in Lafayette could help drive innovation, Durel said.

Durel is right; it is hard to adequately imagine what could be done with 100 megs of intranet bandwidth.

A first stab at thinking about it suggests that
  • transferring HD video of soccer games and birthday parties to grandma's TV screen would be trivial. Given the plummeting cost of hard disk storage there's no reason that items of general interest couldn't be stored in an online archive.
  • A Second Life (a simulated world—described) outpost on the LUS intranet could be photo-realistic and stunningly intricate. A version could be drawn on top of the geography of Lafayette. A version for high school students might start in 1821 and student could draw lots to be founder Mouton...and slaves. A ULL design and planning class might want to launch a version that starts with the present real world as the starting state and games out the effects of various smart growth plans.
  • Suppose communication were easier, richer, and cheaper? What could you do that is hard, or expensive now? How 'bout interactive online boutiques? Not today's virtual warehouses—basically only catalogs, more or less attractively presented, of goods. Instead we could have stores where an actual, knowledgeable person could show off products, talk about the choices intelligently and interactively, helping people find solutions to the problems they have. This needn't be about high-end goods. The value of local hardware stores lies in the expertise of the floor staff. (Think Guidry's Hardware.) A lot of today's buying decisions are made without adequate help--from car stereos, to home networking to which flat screen to buy for which purpose, to finding a tailored suit for a family member's wedding. Full screen video and virtual displays coupled with competent help that is cognizant of the local context could make a big difference--and pretty cheaply once the network infrastructure is in place.
  • AOC's homegrown TV could take on an entirely new cast and develop in amazingly rich directons: imagine news shows where the "anchor" tosses icons of articles, online resources, interviews, additional, detailed video footage, links to older shows, and relevant speeches by public figures onto the screen as they present the 40 second version of the news story. Since the show is an IP data stream (like YouTube's) it can be paused by users interested in the more detailed story and those additional resources viewed or saved for later use. The technology to do that is available today and is little more complicated than the spinning logos you see between every TV news story to execute. What doesn't exist is the bandwidth to make them useful and a critical mass of IP-based viewers. Lafayette, as the largest fiber build will have the size and it will have that bandwidth in-system. The potential for innovative use is endless--what is out of reach in other place will be available here.
  • Your idea here: _______________. Or in the comments.
If we sell this right creatives in many fields will flock to Lafayette. There are things right now that can't be done without both big broadband and a large, varied population. Lafayette will be just about the only place in the US to try those things out. The temptation will be to go for the easy—and easily quantifiable—"big business" targets. Bringing one of those in validates an economic developer's job. But the real future lies in 400 small business and 500 artists of various strips along with their supporting web design and network support cadres. For that we need articles in Time magazine and articles on slashdot.....I hope someone is pursuing those.

And, while we are suggesting: LUS and LCG need to develop home-grown talent. They need to recognize that they are not only competing in an established market. More importantly, if they are to realize their own dreams of making the network a unifying tool for economic devlopment and hopes of vaulting Lafayette into the the tech forefront they need to understand that they build a new market. There is no existing market built on a 100 megs of bandwidth available to a whole community. We will have to invent it here. What the market or old, established habits and skills do in a stable economy won't be adequate here. LUS needs to be generous with and supportive of every Linux club, kids' webmaster group, home networking business, and AOC (especially AOC) that even threatens to build new, socially sustainable expertise. It's a bootstraping operation and in our situation the only institution with the "pull" to get those feet up off the ground is the network owner.

2 comments:

none said...

Hi John,

One real killer app is the Telepresence as developed by Cisco (no I do not hold shares). We in Amsterdam now can have meetings all over the world - without noticing distances. Apart from the impossibility of the guy sitting 6,000 miles away passing on the water bottle. After you asked for it, forgetting the distance.
Takes at least 20 Mb/s symmetric, the more availables the less compression & computing power needed.
This might well be a great help in reducing commuting by teleworking - and decentralized organisations.

grtz
Dirk

John said...

Hi Dirk,

Good to hear from you. Amsterdam is one of those few places in the world that are offering real broadband to a varied population. Lafayette needs to be watching!

Advanced video conferencing for businesses are nifty— and Cisco's setups are very sophisticated; setting up similar virtual boardrooms on each side really does add to the illusion of presence.

This endgadget post (http://www.engadget.com/2006/10/23/ciscos-telepresence-meeting-does-video-meetings-in-ultra-hd/)
makes it clear that it is also pretty pricey. However he same year-old story hints that Cisco is planning on putting it in home-owners' set top boxes. Now that would be cool. Do you see any of that sort of thing in Amsterdam?