A solution looked for help to solve problems Wednesday night in the Edney Building at 11th and Market streets, the "hub" of Chattanooga's Innovation District.
The solution that Chattanooga offers is super-fast Internet - including a network 10 to 100 times faster than Chattanooga's one gigabit-per-second internet network - which already is so fast that it earned Chattanooga its "Gig city" nickname.
Startup entrepreneurs and tech developers gathered on the Edney's fifth floor to listen as officials from the Chattanooga Public Library and from EPB, the city-owned electricity, cable TV and internet utility, talked about three bids seeking help to tap high-speed Internet.
The bid put out by the library offers up to $20,000 for techies to figure out how to best standardize hardware and processes for LoLa, a software system that lets faraway musicians jam together via video cameras, microphones and sound boards as if they're in the same room.
The library can do that, because it's connected to the Global Environment for Network Innovation, or "GENI Rack." It's a nationwide network that's 10 to 100 times faster than EPB's gig network. The GENI Rack connects dozens of universities, including the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
In September, Lola and the GENI network let Chattanooga accordionist Amanda Cagle jam with lead guitarist Linda Bassick - who was some 1,100 miles away at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vt. And in 2012, while the Secret Sisters played live in Coolidge Park, well-known producer and guitarist T-Bone Burnett joined them via a LoLa from the University of Southern California's Annenberg Innovation Lab.
"Having a portable, standardized LoLa kit that's ready to be deployed - something that you can help us build - that's really, really exciting to us," said Mary Barnett, the library's public relations coordinator.
EPB has put two projects out to bid.
One EPB bid seeks help to explore a cloud software application that uses EPB's fiber-optic network - and stays off the wider, public Internet - to transmit encrypted telehealth services and data to connect patients and participating local health care providers directly through a secure connection.
"We don't know a lot about telemedicine, but we really think there's a market here," said EPB technical consultant Shane Sexton.
The high-speed network would allow such things as patients testing themselves with medical instruments that doctors could read.
"They can read those instruments to get real-time information from the patients," Sexton said.
"This is like putting in a HOV lane," said James Cowan, CEO of a docity, a startup headquartered in the Edney Building that lets patients connect securely with healthcare providers via smartphone to ask questions, arrange appointments and speak in real-time with healthcare providers.
"I think the No. 1 thing it [accomplishes] is to move the needle on digital health in Chattanooga," said Cowan, who will bid on the project.
The other bid from EPB looks for a solution to help guide customers through a "complex maze of choices to the video platform that best matches their viewing and budgetary preferences."
EPB will offer grants, depending on services rendered. The local grants will get matching funds from U.S. Ignite, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to promote adoption of "ultra-fast" broadband.
Chattanooga is one of 20 "smart gigabit cities" working to tap the potential of super-fast internet. Each city committed to develop at least two gigabit-enabled applications or public services and to share them with other cities in the program. The program is sponsored by U.S. Ignite, which helped bring the GENI Rack here. U.S. Ignite was awarded a $6 million National Science Foundation grant in 2015 "to build a living lab of test beds for smart gigabit applications."