Mozilla to give out $1.6 million in prize money for projects connecting the unconnected

Mozilla is set to host the final leg of the Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) Challenges in August. During the August 14th event, 14 finalists will demo their projects in a bid to win a slice of the prize money on offer. Each of the projects is oriented towards getting those in rural areas online.

The event will see the fourteen entrants get split into two groups of seven. The two categories are “Off the Grid Internet Challenge” and “Smart Community Networks Challenge”. The two first-place winners are set to receive $400,000 each, the two second-place winners are set to receive $250,000, the two third-place winners will get $100,000 each, and two more fourth-place winners will each get $50,000. That’s eight projects in total that are set to receive funding while the other six will go without.

Mark Surman, Mozilla’s executive director, said:

“Every day, the internet becomes more vital to everyday life — it’s how we find jobs, learn, manage our finances, and communicate with family. This means the 34 million Americans without reliable internet access are at a severe economic, educational, and social disadvantage. And it’s something we need to fix.”

The entrants for the Off the Grid Internet Challenge are:

  1. Baculus | Baculus is a rolling backpack stuffed with off-the-shelf hardware and open-source software that helps community leaders know where to move to maximize Wi-Fi and cellular coverage.
  2. Wind: Off­-Grid Services for Everyday People | Wind uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, and physical infrastructure nodes built from common routers to create a peer-to-peer network.
  3. Project Lantern | A Lantern is a keychain-sized device that hosts decentralized web apps with local maps, supply locations, and more.
  4. HERMES | HERMES (High­-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System) is autonomous network infrastructure. It enables local calling, SMS, and basic OTT messaging, all via equipment that can fit inside two suitcases, using GSM and High-Frequency radio technologies.
  5. Sonnet | Sonnet couples simple hardware (a Wi-Fi module and LoRa transceiver) with custom software (the Sonnet Mesh Protocol, a mesh networking protocol). The result is low-power consumption and long-range connectivity that can easily integrate with other devices.
  6. DisasterRadio | Disaster Radio is an off-grid, solar-powered, long-range mesh network built on free, open-source software and affordable, open hardware.
  7. SELN | SELN (Standalone Emergency LTE Network-in-a-Box) is an open-source, solar- and battery-powered cellular base station that functions like an autonomous LTE network.

The Smart Community Networks Challenge finalists are:

  1. Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) | EII uses a system of relays to beam wireless broadband from a local ISP to vulnerable neighborhoods.
  2. Connect the Unconnected | Using a fixed wireless backbone network, this project provides public housing and homeless shelter residents in a two-­square-mile radius with connectivity at speeds up to 35 Mb/s using point-to-point and point-to-multipoint millimeter wave technology.
  3. ESU 5 Homework Hotspot. This project uses TV white space to create a wireless bridge between local schools and locations throughout nearby communities, allowing students to connect to “homework hotspots.”
  4. NoogaNet | NoogaNet provides wireless access within a defined neighborhood by leveraging utility pole-­mounted Wi-Fi nodes, point­-to-­multipoint millimeter wave, and mesh technologies.
  5. Southern Connected Communities Network | This project entails a broadband tower — and eventually, series of towers — that can deliver 1-Gbps speeds wirelessly to anyone in a 25-mile radius via public spectrums. The towers will be controlled by community members in rural Appalachia and the South who are currently underserved by major ISPs.
  6. NYC Mesh Community Network | This project uses high-­bandwidth sector antennas, internet exchange points, mesh protocols, and solar batteries to create a community-owned, decentralized network.
  7. Solar Mesh | This project integrates mesh Wi-Fi access points into solar-powered light poles in order to provide connectivity to low-income households. The bandwidth is provided by T­-Mobile.

The physical event is not open to the public but be sure to set a reminder for the video embedded at the top of the article so you get a notification when the event is live.

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