The Town of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech have joined US Ignite, a White House initiative which aims to realize the potential of fast, open, next-generation networks by facilitating a national high-speed broadband test bed for development and deployment of ultra-fast broadband applications.

Ultra-fast broadband has the potential to transform the way residents, students, and businesses work, learn, conduct research, and share information; promoting innovation in areas such as advanced manufacturing, clean energy, transportation, education and workforce technologies, emergency preparedness and public safety, and health information technologies.

US Ignite began in 2012 with a five-year charge from the National Science Foundation to serve as a coordinator and incubator of the nationwide test bed, which will spur the adoption of ultra-high speed and software-defined networks, jumpstart gigabit application development, and share best practices with its partners. 

Some of the projects currently underway as part of US Ignite include

  • Accelerating the development and adoption of applications to benefit the public that are not possible on today’s Internet.
  • Connecting radars to ultra-high-speed networks to improve weather prediction, helping mitigate the risks of natural disasters.
  • Exploring the potential for early detection of health changes through unobtrusive monitoring of individuals with in-home sensors, potentially extending independent living options for seniors.
  • Developing high-definition, multipoint videoconferencing applications that enable remote patient access to diagnostic services, and facilitate global business and service.
  • Provisioning disaster response systems that provide emergency staff with training and planning resources, as well as real-time guidance on effective strategies to protect first responders and the general public, greatly improving public safety.
  • Developing an open-innovation manufacturing net­work to devise new ways for customers to interact with suppliers, allowing for the possibility of transforming the current manufacturing paradigm to one that is more nimble, integrated, and ecologically sound.

Blacksburg’s participation in the US Ignite initiative is being led by Blacksburg Town Manager Marc Verniel and Scott Midkiff, vice president of information technology at Virginia Tech, with support and interest from Blacksburg’s community of IT entrepreneurs and start-ups. 

TechPad CEO and founder Bob Summers has already received funding from US Ignite for his advanced fitness app, KinectHealth. Plans are underway to enhance the broadband infrastructure in the downtown area in order to enable greater participation in high-speed network connectivity for citizens and businesses. 

Anyone interested in getting involved is invited to email Brenda van Gelder, executive director, converged technologies for security, safety, and resilience, Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and director, Blacksburg Electronic Village.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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