Fast and furious: 7 apps primed for the gigabit Internet

When gigabit Internet brings jaw-dropping speed, these apps will be ready to make good use of it

7 apps primed for the gigabit Internet

What would you do with 250 times more Internet speed? That might be tough to fathom for the average Internet user who is content so long as "Game of Thrones" streams in HD without hiccups. However, plenty of developers grasp the need for speed to power potentially game-changing applications. Mozilla and The National Science Foundation, in fact, recently doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to winners of the Mozilla Ignite awards, for which developers submitted prototype apps primed for the faster, smarter Internet of the future. Here's a look at standout submissions, which range from a high-quality, open source Web conferencing application to tools for collaborating in 3D environments.

BigBlueButton open source Web conferencing

The BigBlueButton Web conferencing platform has been around for four years now. It supports real-time slide sharing, chat, voice integration with phone switches (FreeSWITCH), desktop sharing, recording, and playback of sessions. It also supports integration with open source systems like Moodle, Sakai, Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress.

Project manager Fred Dixon and his team are prepping the open source project for the gigabit Internet by transforming BigBlueButton from a Flash-based platform into a high-quality Web conferencing system with native HTML5 client and WebRTC-based communications. They anticipate that doing so will enable BigBlueButton to scale to hundreds of simultaneous users.

The BigBlueButton submission secured a $45,000 prize through the Ignite awards.

Easy 3D

Lynx Laboratories CEO Chris Slaughter envisions equipping the masses with a Web-based tool for creating, editing, and sharing 3D content -- feats currently relegated to people with expensive software running on pricey workstations. The app's front end will be built in jQuery, JavaScript, WebGL, and canvas elements. The back-end 3D processing will take place in the cloud, using a firmware server stack based on FastCGI. Developers say the app will bring "a familiar experience for anyone that has used Flickr or WeVideo before." Features will include 3D printing, stereo renders, sharing on social networks, and animations.

Slaughter took home $25,000 for his Ignite submission.

Engage3D videoconferencing

Computational engineer Bill Brock and his team took home a cool $50,000 for their work on a Web-based 3D telepresence application that uses Microsoft Kinect, WebGL, and WebRTC. The technology leverages fast gigabit connections to transfer 3D information as quickly as a standard videoconferencing app. It uses Microsoft Kinect sensors to capture the communication data, then transmits it using WebSockets. From there, the client application renders the visual data using WebGL and audio data using WebRTC.

The developers predict that the technology has "tremendous implications" for the fields of education and health. The developers have testing the technology over a gigabit network in Chattanooga, Tenn., streaming live content from the Tennessee Aquarium.


Jared Lamenzo bills OpenPath, which won $32,500, as a tool for mobile, location-based, collaborative learning in real time. The idea is to connect users with relevant resources, events, and experiences based on their profiles and their geographic location.

A tourist, for example, could take a self-guided tour with OpenPath serving up images, videos, or articles based on where the user is. Walking past a museum might trigger a push notification about a current exhibition featuring an artist the user has liked on Facebook. Users also could share in real time; with 1Gbps speed and deeply programmable networks, "the usual clunkiness expected of live video goes away," according to Lamenzo, "and more detailed resolution brings to life what otherwise would be pixelated or intermittent."

PlanIT Impact

Ignite judges awarded $20,000 to PlanIT Impact, an open source, Web-based app that aims to better visualize -- and understand -- the impact of proposed planning scenarios and construction projects. The tool takes locally available geo-spatial data, along with user-inputted data sets, and integrates it with a 3D visualization program like Google Earth and Sketch Up.

The result is an interactive, navigable 3D environment where users can see exactly how, say, a new housing development might look and affect the surrounding environment. The app calls for gigabit for the memory-intensive process of formatting all that GIS data, as well as navigating the large 3D files.

Reliable Communication Protocol

TCP/IP has a major Achilles' heel: It builds a single path to deliver data between systems. Should the data delivery stall, TCP searches out a new path that may or may not work. That's all well and good (or at least tolerable) for your standard Internet-connected apps, but those kinds of delays can prove costly for mission-critical, time-sensitive apps where every second counts, be it telemedicine, collaborative manufacturing, or high-volume stock-trading systems.

Dr. George B. Adams and his team received $50,000 their work on a new Reliable Communication Protocol, which uses software-defined networking to create and manage redundant paths between communicating devices. If network congestion occurs and degrades application performance, RCP builds new paths. It also replicates data packets as it monitors multiple-path performance.

Simulation-as-a-service for advanced manufacturing

Fat modeling and simulation software like AutoCAD, Paraview, Matlab, and Moldflow traditionally don't lend themselves well to real-time collaboration over the Internet. Prasad Calyam and his team are looking to speed up manufacturing processes by creating a cloud-based SMaaS (simulation as a service), though which teams of remote users could use thin apps and cloud apps to collaborate in real time on building and improving advanced manufacturing components.

The project entails establishing a hybrid cloud with VMware Horizon and HP GENI Rack hardware and with data centers at Tech-DEC in Dublin, Ireland, and the Ohio Supercomputer Center. According to the developer, who took home $25,000 from the Ignite awards, the service is already being used for purposes like computational fluid dynamics design.