Monday, August 13, 2012

Gig City: Gig Tank Winners

Demo Day finally arrived on August 9th for for the Gig Tank participants. Handpicked from around the world through the Geek Hunt program earlier this year, the participants divided into teams and worked with local mentors and leaders. Their task was to develop new applications that make use of Chattanooga's gigabyte-speed internet offered by EPB, the first of its kind in the country before Google debuted its gigabyte network in Kansas City this month.

Demo Day brought a lot of positive press focus from news outlets and social media to both the teams' projects and Chattanooga's burgeoning tech community. The $100,000 first place winner was a team called Banyan, whose project Nooga.com described as "a cloud-based control system for collaborative research" which "aims to make it easier for researchers at universities nationwide to share information." This is an especially timely vision as the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga works to bring its $48 million new library to completion, and while the Chattanooga Public Library integrates the gig speed system to push its information capabilities farther and contribute to the city's new reputation as a tech incubator.

Nooga.com also reported that a $10,000 digital media award went to Chattanooga team Iron Gamer, which "is building a new social gaming experience through live competitive events and interactive streaming content." Iron Gamer is already making waves in town by working with Project: PopUp

Aaron Welch and Darwyn Siplin of Iron Gamer are bringing their business to downtown Chattanooga by participating in Project: PopUp, an initiative to bring new retailers to downtown Chattanooga inspired by similar popup retail efforts around the country. The final Gig Tank prize was a $50,000 student award which went to a project called "Babel Sushi, a real-time, free translation app."

The many top notch and cutting edge ideas the Gig Tank project brought together demonstrate not only the capabilities of gigabyte internet speeds, but show the possibilities for businesses and startups that will move to or come out of Chattanooga in the coming years. One participant even remarked that Chattanooga "has the potential to become something like the Silicon Valley of the southeast." The Economist explained what is perhaps the greatest value of the gig network, however, something that goes beyond residential internet use or even tech startup promise. The gig network is already transforming the way cities are run, with Chattanooga itself standing in as the demo model.
The fiber network is a wireless mesh that allows government, so often wary of innovation, to try new approaches. Police in Chattanooga have vastly expanded their communications and mobile data analysis. Traffic lights will soon be able to respond in real time to changing traffic patterns. Rubbish can be collected more efficiently. EPB can avoid, or minimise, power cuts during storms, and can charge its customers more accurately and transparently. This sort of network can improve a city’s operations while broadening its tax base.
Indeed, Chattanooga has already implemented new hot spots that give police faster, more accessible internet connectivity while on patrol, and cloud-controllable streetlights that have created local jobs, reduced energy costs, and increased security. If this much has been done already, it will be incredible to see what the future holds for the little Southern city that could.