Archive for June, 2006

RI-WINS Town Hall Re-Cap, Part II

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

RI-WINS Town Hall

Here’s a summary of the Q&A from the RI-WINS town hall. It’s mostly paraphrased/summarized (see the video for verbatim; I’ve included the timestamps for each question/answer to make it easier for you to locate them).

If you have any questions or clarifications, please post them in the comments. And if you’d like to be identified as one of the questioners, let me know (you’re anonymous by default).

How do Verizon and other carriers perceive this initiative as regards their own initiatives such as EVDO?

Bob Panoff replied that Verizon was one of the first companies they contacted. He went on to say that the goal of this initiative is to foster applications that work across interoperable wireless networks. He also mentioned that RI-WINS has been talking with Cox about how they might work together. Tracy Williams pointed out that a lot of the focus of private sector wireless has been the Route 95 corridor, but that RI-WINS aims to establish a consistent wireless footprint across the state.

What about bringing access into people’s homes (targeting the consumers in Newcastle)?

Bob replied that the initial focus is on enterprises and institutions (RI-WINS is more of a wholesale provider of wireless access, with the enterprises and institutions providing user-facing capabilities). He said that there will ultimately be an “innovative approach to consumers”, but that they will work with partners and affinity groups who will develop consumer-facing offerings.

What will the hardware look like from a consumer viewpoint? Users with a WiMAX card in their laptop? A WiMAX enabled home router that creates a Wi-Fi cloud?

Bob answered that there’s no definite answer on this, but he thinks we are moving toward a multi-protocol world (cell, Wi-Fi, WiMAX) with seamless hand-off when roaming between clouds of wireless.

As a followup to the last question, what sort of equipment should contest entrants plan on using for their N-GEN Wireless World contest entries?

In response, Bob pulled a Navini WiMAX PC Card out of his pocket :-) For the immediate future, the network is based on pre-WiMAX technology. As an aside, RI-WINS initially considered Wi-Fi, but it would have taken 9,000 access points! With WiMAX, it will only take 120 base stations (I’d love to see that on a Google map!). However, Wi-Fi hotspots will play a part. Don Stanford pointed out that WiMAX is being widely touted as an alternative to 3G/4G, but that the infrastructure is very affordable and flexible.

Are there any compatible WiMAX cards that are suitable for embedded systems/sensor network development (either Compact Flash-based cards with Linux drivers or serial-WiMAX bridges for bare metal development)?

Don replied that these sorts of devices will eventually come. Maybe they’ll even be invented in Rhode Island! To that point, Bob pointed out that RI-WINS would really like to see the network used for ocean research. Don mentioned that port security is another big area for RI-WINS.

Is the lack of a strong commitment to consumer access on the part of RI-WINS a policy choice, economic choice, or something else?

Bob replied that it’s a combination of things:

  • The state of technology is definitely an issue (the WiMAX hardware won’t be widely available to consumers soon enough).

  • By not tackling consumer access at this point, complicated questions of acceptable use can be deferred (some of those issues-especially file sharing-bring major bandwidth issues along with them).

Putting aside the broad consumer market for the moment, what if the question is changed to individuals-people not tied to an institution?

Bob replied that RI-WINS is very committed to this kind of use, but that it will be through intermediaries who build solutions on top of RI-WINS. He mentioned that we could eventually see policy/government entities working with RI-WINS to underwrite/subsidize low-cost access to users. But all this is a later phase-and that these sort of features will be added incrementally.

Could municipalities sign up with RI-WINS to provide access to their citizens?

Bob replied that RI-WINS is talking to one community that is not well-served by broadband, and they are looking to provide low-cost or free service to people who are unable to afford other solutions.

What kind of operating budget does RI-WINS have?

Bob replied that they have some seed money from the state government, a grant from homeland security. [Unfortunately, I couldn’t make out the actual amount that Bob quoted, but I’ll get that info and put it in here].

RI-WINS Town Hall Recap, Part 1

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

RI-WINS Town Hall

[Update: Part II of the re-cap, the Q&A, is now available]

To everyone who attended, and all our speakers (Bob Panoff, Don Stanford, and Tracy Williams) thanks for making the first Providence Geeks Town Hall a success. The event was held Wednesday, June 21 at AS220, and the speakers gave us a comprehensive overview of the RI-WINS project, and took Q&A from the audience (I’ll have a post up soon with some highlights from the Q&A).

  • Don Stanford was the first speaker, and led by explaining the relationship between the Business Innovation Factory (BIF), the EDC, and RI-WINS. In a nutshell, BIF is a combination of public and private interests that is housed at the EDC. BIF’s focus is bringing people together to collaborate on innovation projects to make Rhode Island a great place to live and work. WINS is the pilot project for BIF, and is designed to be the platform on which future projects are built.

  • Bob Panoff spoke next, and discussed RI-WINS. He pointed out that Rhode Island’s size, intimacy, and heterogeneous nature makes it a microcosm of the larger world, and as such, is the perfect testbed for a border-to-border wireless network. He explained that the goal of RI-WINS is to encourage new business models and practices that are based around the assumption that you’ve got pervasive broadband connectivity.

  • Tracy Williams was our final speaker, and described her role as being “responsible for information technology at the executive branch” of government. She explained that the RI-WINS network could become a critical part of how the RI government delivers information to its citizens. As a specific example, she mentioned lawyers and social workers in courthouses: they need wireless access to data to be more effective, but since courthouses are often historic buildings, it’s impossible to outfit such structures with wireless networks effectively. By bathing the whole state in wireless, RI-WINS enables wireless access to state information in places that would otherwise be quite tricky.

A video of the event is available, and it should play under QuickTime as well as on many mobile devices. If anyone has trouble viewing it, please post a note about this in the comments and I’ll see if I can re-encode it in an alternative form. Also, corrections and clarifications are welcome, so feel free to use the comments for that as well!

(My apologies to Don for skipping a few seconds at around 00:06:00 due to my clumsiness operating the camera.)

Geek Dinner #5=Great; Recap=Late

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Apologies for the belatedness of this recap of the latest Geek Dinner. It’s ironic that I’m posting so late, as for me, this was our best event yet. We had a big crowd with lots of new people, each seemingly more interesting, cool (you know, in a nerdy way), and talented than the next.

Joan Peckham and Peter Stephenson gave a terrific talk and demo on their program—the URI/imedia Research Experience for Undergraduates.

Brian has posted photos to the Providence Geeks Flickr Pool.

Be sure to join us for the next Geek Dinner—Wednesday, July 12th, 5:30-9pm+ at AS220. Watch this space for details.

URI/imedia Presentation at This Week’s Geek Dinner

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

URI/imedia REU

At the June 14th Geek dinner, representatives of the URI/imedia REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) for Computer Graphics Research will be on hand to provide a short overview of the program and take questions.

The URI/imedia REU site is an NSF-funded program for undergraduate students who are interested in computer graphics from the artistic, design, and scientific points of views. Each summer, these students are given the opportunity to work on cutting edge interdisciplinary research projects supervised by specialists from URI and imedia.

Connect Providence Gathering Tonight — 6pm

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Connect Providence, the City-State’s general business networking group, is gathering tonight at 6pm in the Icon Cafe. Sounds like it will be a good time:

“this event will be held in conjunction with a local gathering called Social Development, a group of non-reclusive real estate developers who meet periodically to share ideas over a few drinks.�

Details and RSVP.

Picture of cover of
Providence Geeks is a member of the RI Nexus Community

To join our very-low-volume announcement list, please send an email to jtemplin [at] gmail [dot] com.


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