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July 05, 2005

OneCleveland: The View From Inside Business

Northeast Ohio's Inside Business published a feature story on OneCleveland written by long time technology evangelist, Dan Hanson.

Dan is one of the handful of writers on the regional scene who has long understood the transformational potential of the OneCleveland concept. If you like what you read, let Dan know.

Issue Date: July 2005 Issue

Speedy Transfer
Intel, IBM and Cisco are revolutionizing the sharing of data in Northeast Ohio.

Dan Hanson

Let's clear up a common misconception. OneCleveland is not a free wireless network covering the city like a connected series of coffeeshop Wi-Fi hotspots.

It's true OneCleveland is a provider of ultra broadband networking services, connecting computers to one another and the Internet at super-fast speeds. But it's who it connects, and what it enables them to do, that makes the service powerful and unique.

In short, it's revolutionizing the way information is shared in Northeast Ohio.

OneCleveland's subscribers consist of public and nonprofit institutions, such as Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Museum of Art, MetroHealth System, the city of Cleveland, and the Cleveland Orchestra, among others.

It's a system that allows partnerships such as the one between the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cuyahoga County Library. Currently four programs are in place that allow both institutions to utilize one another's resources and they are working on a fifth program that will provide digital art exhibits to library patrons. This will enable virtual field trips to the museum and real-time interactive presentations. A nod from the federal government in the form of a $500,000 grant over two years to help fund such programs shows the importance of this partnership to the community and its continuing education.

MetroHealth System already is using the network to share massive data files with researchers at Case. It allows, for example, a specialist to instantaneously view an MRI image or other medical scan over the network. The specialist will be able to share his or her expertise almost as if he or she were on site holding up the X-ray. Before OneCleveland existed, the process to transfer such large files of data would have taken hours.

Constant developments, including deals with big-time tech companies IBM, Cisco and Intel, and the expansion of the network into additional counties, are keeping the OneCleveland network in the public eye and sparking interest from cities around the world.

Northeast Ohio is on a path to becoming a cutting-edge digital Mecca, with the potential to attract new businesses and enhance the region as a viable place to live and work.

So what's in it for you?

If you provide IT-related products or services, you will have exposure to cutting-edge people, companies and technologies.

Even if you aren't in the tech world, the opportunities for your company to piggyback on the successes of the OneCleveland network are exciting. As new businesses sprout, they will require a myriad of products and services, from construction and real estate to legal, accounting, medical and other services, to get started. Savvy business people will find ways to include their products and services as projects emerge.

"There are opportunities for the core businesses of the region, such as manufacturing -- particularly in the devices arena -- to test and model their solutions with subscribers," says Lev Gonick, the chief information officer of Case Western Reserve University and chairman of OneCleveland.

Gonick arrived in Cleveland in 2001 from California State University, Monterey Bay, where he served as chief technical officer. He had been recruited by Case to bring his expertise to Northeast Ohio. During the recruiting process, he learned of the vast fiber optic network running beneath the streets of Greater Cleveland. Part of the network was installed in the early Ô90s by Case to be used as an intranet for its students. At the same time, companies such as Philadelphia-based City Signal Communications were investing in fiber optic networks for private gain.

In 2002, Gonick instigated discussions between Case, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University, the city of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, ideastream (WVIZ and WCPN), the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the Northeast Ohio Regional Technology Coalition (NorTech).

He envisioned a network to connect public organizations as a way of sharing information and spurring economic development. In 2003, OneCleveland was officially established and subscribers came online one by one. There are more than a dozen current subscribers, with more added regularly.

Subscribers get two immediate ben-efits. First, OneCleveland connects subscribers to the Internet. Second, it offers subscribers the option of connecting to one another at incredible speeds at no additional cost, thus making collaboration easy.

Other cities have available fiber networks (which are much faster than the copper-based T1 Internet lines) but they are under-utilized. Moreover, the shared regional infrastructure and community collaboration that exists in Cleveland is not available elsewhere, says Scot Rourke, OneCleveland's president.

That is where the real opportunities arise. Because of the ultra broadband network and collaborative environment, companies are extremely interested in coming to town to develop and test their products.

"At least once a week we receive a serious inquiry from a company interested in providing services to the subscribers," Gonick says. "For a tech entrepreneur, this is a very exciting sandbox to play in."

After two years of conversations between OneCleveland and IBM, big projects have started to pick up speed.

At the end of May, IBM announced its commitment to partner with fellow tech giants Cisco and Intel, and OneCleveland, to help create a giant computer grid system in Northeast Ohio -- the first of its kind in the world.

"We saw Cleveland as the test market for this just because of the infrastructure that was set up," says Scott Cook, a spokesperson for IBM. "They have done a lot of the work in getting these organizations to the table and that is probably the biggest step in getting these things to work."

In grid computing, multiple computers have the ability to feed off of each other's power, forming a sort of supercomputer. What's even more exciting is that these linked computers can share databases.

The idea is that Cleveland will dem-onstrate grid computing's potential to jumpstart economic development. This will be tested first in the health care industry.

Several health care systems in Cleveland and Akron are coming on board as part of the test. The hope is that hospital systems in the region will be able to share medical records with one another. So if a patient happens to go to two different hospitals, both can access that patient's most up-to-date medical history.

Additionally, OneCleveland, Intel and the city of Cleveland are discussing plans to create an application for the governmental sector. The hope is that public departments around the region will be able to access, file, and share data, making processes more efficient.

Another advantage Cleveland has over other cities scrambling to catch up is content.

"We already have incredible content," Rourke says. "The network is only as good as what they do with it."

Institutions such as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra, NASA, and others all have world-class content for distance learning and other quality of life services.

How long will our advantage last?

"That is the critical question," says Gonick. "No more than one year to 18 months if we do nothing. But the goal is to not only continue but to accelerate the pace."

The community benefits of One-Cleveland are obvious. Local nonprofit and government institutions will be able to provide new and better services to an expanded audience. The possible benefits of the collaborations between subscribers are limitless.

And economic benefits will flourish as a result of the community benefits.

Cleveland's reputation will be enhanced, and as a result, the region will attract talented people -- not to mention companies and their deep pockets.

Community leaders and entrepreneurs have begun to believe this is no longer in the realm of science fiction. OneCleveland is morphing outside the region. Already, plans are in place to extend the network outside of Cuyahoga County. In June, the GAR Foundation in Akron awarded OneCleveland a $100,000 grant to expand the network into Summit County, rendering the organization's moniker in-accurate. This summer the nonprofit will unveil a new name that won't be specific to any one municipality. (As of press time, a name had yet to be chosen.) Instead, it will focus on a new era of business in Northeast Ohio.

"The heavy lifting is done," Rourke says. "We've built a stage for provocative, innovative things and are bringing in wicked smart people from all over the world. It's ready to explode. The challenge is that we have to embrace it."

Posted by lsg8 at July 5, 2005 03:40 PM and tagged Bytes 

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