UW-Madison and city team up for Smart Gigabit Communities program to develop civic-minded apps

As the type of ultra-high-speed Internet access known as gigabit Internet grows in availability, a unique public-private partnership, US Ignite, is supporting the creation of applications that will serve the public good through this technology.

US Ignite is a nonprofit that fosters the development and deployment of next-generation applications that will profoundly impact how Americans live, work and learn.  At a June event in Austin, Texas, US Ignite announced that the University of Wisconsin-Madison, partnering with the City of Madison, Madison Metro Transit and others, is one of 15 “Smart Gigabit Communities” nationwide.

Each Smart Gigabit Community will develop two gigabit applications or public services that provide solutions to issues faced by that community.  They also agree to share those advanced technology apps with the other Smart Gigabit Communities, enabling those cities to build upon the innovations of the entire network.

US Ignite is assisting each community by providing ideas, education and resources for funding and deployment.

“This program is a pivotal moment for Smart Community application development,” said Glenn Ricart, co-founder and CTO of US Ignite. “The benefits of each community’s program will be amplified by this network of Smart Gigabit Communities. It’s innovation in a 15-community consortium where each community’s contribution is multiplied by 15!”

In Madison, research and development is led by Professor Suman Banerjee (pictured at left), who holds a joint appointment in computer science and electrical and computer engineering.  Banerjee also heads the Wisconsin Wireless Networking Systems (WiNGS) Laboratory on campus.

Madison’s main project is called ParaDrop; it’s a special WiFi router that hosts applications within the router itself, leading to a better application and end-user experience.  Its potential uses touch upon many different areas, from smart homes and buildings to energy management and public safety.

Madison’s other focus is transportation-related.  One application tracks the usage of Madison Metro buses, allowing for detailed, real-time analysis of information like the most popular routes, ridership at different times of day and more.  Such data can inform better transportation planning.

Another application under development deals with ridesharing among electric cars.  Data from the cars is accessible via the Internet.  Detailed information is tracked, since as a particular car’s battery level, schedule and more.  A driver can book a shared car knowing not only that a certain vehicle is available, but also feeling confident that the car has no maintenance problems and has enough electrical charge to make the trip.

Bruce Maas, UW-Madison’s chief information officer and vice provost for information technology, serves on the steering committee overseeing Smart Gigabit activities in Madison. “This project is a great example of how innovative research by UW-Madison faculty, in partnership with community leaders and the National Science Foundation, can positively impact the economy and lives of citizens of Wisconsin.”

Said Banerjee, “The Smart Gigabit Communities Initiative and US Ignite are going to encourage all of us to think differently about new technologies and how they can solve significant societal problems. It gives us an opportunity to really dream big and touch lives in local communities in a very positive way.”

The Smart Gigabit Communities initiative is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and will also be supported by US Ignite partners including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Juniper, Mozilla, Internet2, Viavi Solutions and others.