An electrical engineer, Christopher Anderson had been working on the team that brought the communications systems on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program to life. He realized technology could do much more to connect people here on Earth. So he developed BRIDGE, a low-cost wireless switch capable of tapping into unused and under-used fiber optic networks, boosting the speed of communication and enabling augmented realities like holograms.
More than seven years in development, the device is smaller than a shoebox and can be installed on a light pole, building or other structure. It offers secure and reliable connections.
He and Program Director Zach Howe set up shop in Clearwater about six months ago as Connected Revolution, a for-profit company looking to enlist 100 communities across the nation to become the first to use the BRIDGE. It has set up a contest, with the goal of raising $500,000 per community to implement the technology.
“We’re hoping over time everybody is going to be [connected].” Howe says.
What BRIDGE does is bring the high-speed connectivity existing on Main Street to the last mile, where it can reach more users. “We eliminate those bottlenecks. We deliver the same speed fiber has down to the end point,” explains Anderson, President and Founder.
“It’s very much like having the fiber routed to your home or routed to your cellphone, but without the wire,” he adds.
With its contest launched July 4, Connected Revolution seeks to democratize connectivity and enlist the involvement of individuals, civic leaders and entrepreneurs, who can make money deploying the system.
“BRIDGE is not putting itself in the middle of this like a gatekeeper would, like a normal corporation would,” Anderson explains. “BRIDGE is facilitating open access to everything in this process.”
People can become involved by buying a T-shirt at the company’s website, or by donating, or by getting in touch.
“We’d like to see people get involved in whatever way they’d like to get involved,” Howe says.
What are the benefits to a community? According to its website, early adopters:
• have better, faster and more reliable service;
• can attract more technology-minded people limited by their current Internet providers;
• can scale it affordably;
• will be pioneers in the new ecosystem; and
• will be able to use augmented reality and artificial intelligence systems well.
Fiber networks are already in place to serve about 90 percent of the country. It exists within at least 10,000 feet even in rural areas. Connections to this fiber can be leased and its power can be harnessed, Anderson says.
“The possibilities, once you’ve gotten connected, are kind of endless,” Howe adds.
People who want their communities to be among the first adopters of the technology can generate funds by purchasing “Take the Internet Back!” T-shirts and Connected Revolution stickers. Funds also can be donated by individuals or local government, or even loaned to the community.
will get things rolling as a facilitator, but ultimately others will be manufacturing equipment. Entrepreneur operators could make money as a service provider, or may even opt to offer it free.
“It could be that the Netflix of the world and the Amazon of the world, other media could be sharing their revenues with the switch operators,” Anderson says.
The Clearwater-based Redstone Technologies
holds the BRIDGE patents and intellectual property rights. It also will be issuing licenses to switch operators.
Howe says they’ve been reaching out to Tampa Bay Area business and civic leaders about being part of the initial group. Thus far, five communities nationwide are participating in the contest, including an unidentified one in Florida, in addition to two communities in California and two in Colorado. There also was interest from other states.
An inaugural event is planned in the Tampa Bay Area in the fall to demonstrate the technology; details have not yet been firmed up. The program will begin rolling out to the first 100 communities in early 2019.
To spur augmented reality applications in the initial communities, Connected Revolution will launch a Million Dollar Developers Contest. Fifty projects will be awarded $20,000 in prizes through a hackathon.
“Whatever we do we try to do in the form of a contest,” Anderson adds.