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February 20, 2008

Blogging Connected Urban Development #2

Sneak Peak at the Cisco Green Connected Bus

Connected Bus.jpg

Looking for an urban transportation mover that consumes 95% fewer CO2 emissions while connects travelers as its moves through the cityscape and monitors and projects its geographic location and vitals at every moment. If you have $10,000 you can now look forward to buying your very own green connected bus.

The bus I toured this morning is a pilot between Cisco and San Francisco MTA. At the heart of the mini closet behind the driver is a Cisco mobile access router, 2 personal computers, 5 touchscreen monitors, and a software suite of services for passengers that enables passengers to track their current status, the time to the stop they want, along with their weekly personal carbon footprint calculator saving using the green bus all enabled on touchscreens.

The mobile router talks to video cameras, EVDO cards to support wireless use on the bus, and a host of other spectrum radios that can (in the future) be integrated to provide anything in anything out environment.

The pilot bus is also a moving technology green school house. Where the usual advertisements for cosmetology school are posted the green bus is filled with environmental factoids and targeted marketing on personal commitments to the green agenda.

I'm old enough to remember the Ken Kesey and the Magic Bus (The Who) and Magical Mystery Tour (Beatles). Riding the new green bus in San Francisco gives a completely new meaning to the idea of getting on the bus. Eighteen months ago we demonstrated a lightweight version of the connected public bus with the RTA in Greater Cleveland during our wireless University Circle demonstrations with Cisco and OneCommunity. The improvements to user interface and education on the San Francisco bus are impressive. Mass public transport that has all these built-in smarts makes for a compelling experience that also contributes to reducing CO2 emissions.

Lev Gonick
February 20, 2008
San Francisco, CA

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Blogging Connected Urban Development #1

What do Amsterdam, San Francisco, and Seoul have in common?

Think Green. Smart and Connected.

Under the auspices of Cisco Systems and their corporate commitment to lead in support the efforts of the Clinton Global Initiative, leaders from these three international cities and invited delegates from nearly 100 cities around the world gathered today for the launch of the two day 2008 Connected Urban Development Global conference in San Francisco.

Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco opened the conference with a call for a commitment to use the Connected Urban Development consortium as a best practices repository from the world's most innovative cities committed to using technology to reduce CO2 emissions and other smart technologies to address sustainable futures in other sectors.

President Clinton and CEO John Chambers both framed the cornerstone of the effort as a generational challenge focusing on the future, the welfare of citizenship around the world, and the future of the global environmental development. There is no way to solve the civilizational malaise we face one city at a time, one company at a time, one sector at a time. The CUD is also being framed as a common architecture solution orientation for replication and adaptation in other settings.

Eighty percent of all global emissions originate in urban settings. And the reality is that for another generation that proportion will grow until urbanization peaks out. We inside the IT world are more aware than ever that our data centers and other technology infrastructure accounts for as much power and energy consumption as the aviation industry. At the same time, it is clear that technology is part of the solution.

According to Chambers, the next phase of the internet and the driver for economic growth will be premised on a new paradigm which he calls collaborative based on web 2.0 technologies. One of the sages of the first long wave of internet productivity, Chambers is calling for 10% productivity increases in his company over the next 7 years based on the collaboration model. I wouldn't bet against Chambers although there are additional complexities to the current decade that distinguish it from the 1996-2006.

One of the central opportunities is the development of a pervasive, high quality, high definition video conferencing infrastructure. Long the 'great hope' of a rich media and rich sensory experiences access to video is Cisco's next 'big' bet. While there are a number of interesting sociological challenges in shifting human communication behaviors towards these augmented virtual reality systems business adoption will likely lead to additional use and adaptation in other settings across the city, region, or around the world.

A large and provocative portfolio of applications in different settings including smart homes, smart transportation systems, smart construction and building operations with examples from Amsterdam, San Francisco, and Seoul are the subjects of subsequent blogs.

Each of the mayors open not only with examples of their own efforts but of interest, routinely reflecting on examples from one another. As we think about the value of these shared best practices it will be important to not only shed light on the common sharing among leading innovating and growing cities and their eco-systems but begin to also look at creating shared best practices for turn around cities and the growing number of 19th century cities who are either by design or through neglect shrinking its population and economic basis.

To that end, the first session included the introduction of the mayors of the second phase Connected Urban Development partners; Lisbon,Madrid, Hamburg, and Birmingham. These cities offer relevant contexts for cities like Cleveland and other older industrial cities in Europe and North America. Rather than waiting for next year's report on progress in Amsterdam, Cleveland, Akron, and other cities in NEOhio should pro-actively consider approaching and joining the Connected Urban Development consortium. There's much to learn and also something to contribute to these important challenges of our generation.

Smart. Green. Connected. Not a bad tag line for Northeast Ohio.

Lev Gonick
February 20, 2008
San Francisco, CA

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February 08, 2008

The FCC Rural Health Care Initiative: Chaords, Fractals, and the Future of Community Broadband Networks

The idea is simple enough.

Simple and powerful.

Take a small part of the Universal Service Fee that we all pay on our monthly phone bills and direct it to support healthcare access in rural and underdeveloped regions across the United States.

Sixty days ago the FCC approved its first round of $417m to competitively bid the construction of 69 regional broadband telehealth networks in 42 states and three U.S. territories touching some 6000 facilities under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP). Thanks to the good work of OneCommunity and the Northeast Ohio Regional Health Information Organization (NEO RHIO)22 counties in Northeast Ohio connecting connect 19 rural hospitals and numerous clinics spanning 22 counties to over 30 existing hospitals connected to the OneCommunity network. The grant for $11m to be matched by regional investments places NEOhio in the mix to extend broadband services to rural communities to support healthcare needs.

When I first gleaned insights into this emerging initiative, representing the first demonstrable 'planned' national broadband strategy this past spring, I waited to see what kind of mindshare it might produce across the country. The result has been, thus far, deafening silence. In searching the blogsphere, the web, and the conference circuit, thought leadership and bold thinking remains muted at best.

As I have posted before on this blog, I am neither naive enough or philosophically predisposed to believing that a federal mandate for a national broadband architecture with concomitant legislation and implementation requirements is happening anytime soon. Likewise, the clear and demonstrable market failure to attend to these under-served populations will, in large measure, be attended to through contracting of services to the very same vendors who are not building the infrastructure but will receive most of disbursement of funds, even if they are subs rather than prime movers in the initiative. That being said, I do believe that the FCC Rural Health Care pilot stands as a potential catalyst for a very different kind of arc of activity in positioning us for a Broadband 2.0 for America effort.

Here are the contours of my thinking informed by more than a decade long set of conversations, solutions-architecture, and lived experience in building out platforms for innovation to address community priorities leveraging technology to address organizational, institutional and community priorities. For those engaged in some of those conversations at various retreats and project planning efforts over the past decade I hope I manage to do justice to some of the DNA of our work. Feel free, as always, to correct the record.

Community-based broadband efforts, in contrast to the command and control efforts originating in various city halls or utility commissions, has a lot in common with what Dee Hock called chaordic organizations.

Chaords are self-organizing, self-governing, adaptive, nonlinear, complex organisms, organizations, communities or systems, whether physical, biological or social, the behavior of which harmoniously blends characteristics of both chaos and order.

From my own vantage point, the Net itself is the undergirding chaordic system of our era. Organizations that are able to embrace and thrive in the ambiguity that defines the relative state of stasis between chaos and order are more likely to have the right set of attributes that enable them to sustain their own and the broader eco-system's needs and goals. Leadership (what I've previously coined as open source leadership here and here )that likewise embraces the power of de-centering the power of decision making will also have certain advantages in a chaordic system.

Community broadband initiatives that emerge (through different forms of open-source leadership) as coalitions of diverse interests, organizational needs and capacities dedicated to leveraging technology to address community priorities can become chaordic organizations. As in most situations, the deliberate arc of activity to support organizational development to nurture these efforts are as difficult to sustain as they are likely to have positive outcomes. The result although not always comforting news is the imperative to embrace the dictum that innovation is hard work. Community broadband initiatives are a new category in the marketplace and they are necessarily more complex at this stage in our evolution. They can also be messy, disruptive, and frustrating as organizations-in-the-making.

How might this set of notions regarding community broadband networks as chaordic organizations be replicated (or in the language of the chaordic literature -- be fracticalized)or made to be relevant to the FCC Rural Health Care Pilot initiative and Broadband 2.0 in the United States?

Hardened bureaucratic planning has typically dictated that resources associated with a grant or award be dedicated for the exclusive and unique purpose of delivering that service. This is also the case in the world of broadband. The liner association of singular source against singular use is no longer conditioned by technology. Indeed, there is an abundance of technical reference architectures deployed in multiple settings across multiple use cases and jurisdictions that renders credible the proposition that a single set of fiber pairs (or similarly small set of fiber pairs) can support dozens of separate, secured, and robust dedicated or shared networks through multi-plexing technologies. We are working with a community in another state where the County has been informed by a federal office that funds to place conduit and hundreds of pairs of fibers can not only not be used for any other purpose other than the stated bureaucratic goal but the County can not even place a second conduit in the available conduit. The result is that more than 95% of the existing capacity and 100% of future capacity is unused and unusable. For the County to realize its service goals it must overbuild the infrastructure at enormous public expense (although, as is obvious, its a different public office collecting and disbursing the funds which... makes all the difference!).

If designed to accommodate and support Broadband 2.0, the FCC Rural Health Care Pilot could become the enabling infrastructure and first application service offering in what could become a viable connected community strategy for under-served communities and populations. Connecting healthcare facilities to urban providers and specialist is laudable, important, and compelling. Leveraging that infastructure to connect those same under-served communities to education, science, skills development, art, and state and federal government services represents the unleashing of a Broadband 2.0 strategy.

The idea is simple enough.

Simple and powerful.

Give communities in need a sense of hope and opportunity to vision their futures. Enable their schools, museums, libraries, government services and such to be connected to each other and to the global village. Enable our inner cities and rural communities to help chart and navigate their community's future towards good public health, education, jobs and skills development for the 21st century, and opportunities to participate, as active members and global citizens. The technology is ready to support this approach. The content is available and continuing to grow in relevance and value to realize this cross boundary portfolio approach. The initial seed funding is in the pipeline through the FCC Rural Health Care Pilot.

Wanted ... local rural community leadership interested in a 21st century version of old fashion barn raising. Community Broadband Networks draw on many of the same core values and are foundational investments to preserve, sustain, and promote a vibrant roadmap deep into the 21st century landscape.

A loosely federated network of self-organizing, self-governing, adaptive rural connected communities who develop capacity to live and thrive harmoniously in the interstices between chaos and order are not only elements of a chaordic system. The net result of that emerging system will be key patches of a national broadband quilt itself.

We've learned a couple things along the journey of supporting the build out of OneCommunity.

The idea is simple enough.

Simple and powerful.

Lev Gonick
Cleveland, Ohio
February 8, 2008

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