Blandin Foundation recently announced grants to four Minnesota organizations through the new LightSpeed program. The program’s purpose is to stimulate the deployment of bandwidth intensive applications that connect local institutions to area resident’s home. I will be keeping a close eye on the grantees and helping to report their progress on the Blandin blog. In addition, you will be hearing from our grantees about their efforts to better serve their communities with big bandwidth tools.
We have two education and two health care applications in the LightSpeed program and four very different applications. Today, I will give you a brief description of each project.
Home and Community Options (HCO), a non-profit organization, operates a number of residential group homes in Winona. HCO will, in partnership with local telecom provider Hiawatha Broadband, utilize a fiber optic network to connect HCO’s homes and administrative offices with a high-speed WAN. HCO will implement a number of applications over this network, including remote monitoring of several of the homes in the nighttime hours. Using a combination of cameras and sensors, staff will be able to keep a close eye on clients. This will provide savings in staff time and allow one staff person to monitor several homes. In addition, HCO has plans for advanced file sharing so that staff in one location will be able to review client records that now may be located in several locations. Finally, the network will be used for training and staff meetings, eliminating the need for travel across town.
Lakewood Hospital in Staples has a growing number of hospice, post-operative and other homebound patients. Lakewood will be using its grant to hire and staff, purchase equipment and begin to use both video and monitoring equipment to visit and monitor patients in their home. These technologies will allow nursing staff to visit with patients more regularly and keep track of vital information on weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, pulse and other measures. Lakewood will be determining which clients are best suited to use this equipment. Medical reimbursement policies seem to be at least as complicated as the technology application so there are many considerations to the implementation of a successful initiative.
Windom Schools will be using their grant for a number of exciting purposes. They will energize their school’s mass communications curriculum by purchasing equipment that will enable students to create local content that can be streamed over the Internet and shown on the local cable access channels. They will also be encouraging teachers to adapt their courses for online and video delivery so that the district can showcase some of its advanced content. In addition, the school district plans to expand its current homework hotline program to include video over web cams so that teachers can demonstrate math and other visual solutions.
The Little Crow regional school technology consortium in Hutchinson has a strong regional fiber network. Their grant will be used to purchase a digital video recorder and affiliated equipment so that video content can be captured and streamed over the Internet. This will make content more available to greater numbers of teachers and students, multiplying the impact of video field trips, guest speakers and other exciting curriculum.
Blandin Foundation recognizes that there is more to creating a technological vibrant community than fiber connections. Users must be willing and be trained. Sometimes additional equipment, software or services must be purchased to successfully launch a new application. The LightSpeed Program has provided the resources necessary to take advantage of big bandwidth networks and try new things. Congratulations and good luck to our grantees!