Crowdsourcing Uses For Google's Forthcoming FTTH Networks

As you might recall, Google is building Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) networks in Kansas City, MO and at Stanford University. Google claims it will offer 1 Gbps broadband at a price consistent with services offered by other broadband providers. (The service is currently offered at $49/month to a handful of customers in Palo Alto.) But what will consumers actually do with such a fat pipe? Most assume that question can't be answered until the service is launched.

But Kansas City-based Think Big Partners is impatient. The early-stage business incubator has launched a crowdsourcing contest of sorts to identify apps or services that have the potential to advantage of all that bandwidth. The Gigabit Challenge will award a total of $200,000 in cash and services to the top ideas, with $100,000 going to the winner. Entries must be submitted between October 3 and October 31; a round of 25 finalists will be announced in mid-November; follow-up business plans are to be submitted by mid-December; and the winners will be announced in mid- to late-January 2012 -- right about the time when the Google network should be up and running.

This is another example of the creative use of crowdsourcing, which provides benefits all around:

  • Bright, creative people are incentivized to think twice about the use cases for a 1 Gbps broadband connection -- even those who are not directly linked to this market;
  • Developers who have already crafted ideas on how to leverage this asset have a chance at some early capital and promotional opportunities that could get them up and running quicker;
  • Think Big Partners gets first crack at helping these product ideas see the light of day, which comes with access to financial benefits that the company hopes will dwarf the costs of financing the contest; and
  • Consumers with a bright, shiny 1 Gbps connection will ultimately benefit from access to creative, useful apps and services sooner than later.

Product strategists and innovation managers take heed: You don't have to have all the answers yourself. Sometimes a little creative thinking is all you need to unearth new product or innovation opportunities.


Great post, Doug, Think Big

Great post, Doug, Think Big is doing some great work. I can't wait to see the top ideas that emerge, and I'd like to call some attention to a similar initiative focused on the other end of the innovation funnel. Social Media Club of Kansas City*, along with The Brainzooming Group, we're crowdsourcing the front-end ideation, starting with an opportunity to share ideas online. I invite anyone who has thought about what ultra high-speed home Internet might mean to submit ideas at:

On October 3rd we'll gather 75 or so thought leaders from the Kansas City area and beyond to participate in a day-long brainstorming session around some key topic areas, such as education, libraries, elder care, arts and entertainment, and infrastructure. Our goal is to produce hundreds of idea seeds and maybe 20 more developed concepts.

The timing ought to provide some additional fodder for entrepreneurs motivated by Think Big's prize money and will be open-source, published online for anyone with the means or inclination to act. We are excited to imagine how the gigabit city will look--and then actually see it take shape. We set up a site with a bit more information where we plan to document the crowdsourcing process:

*Disclosure: I'm the on the SMCKC board and helping to plan this event.