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Case Western Reserve University researchers are preparing to launch an 18-month project that will transform 104 homes in impoverished Cleveland neighborhoods into "smart homes," which will be powered by a super-high-speed network approximately 1,000 times faster than a normal high-speed connection. Case Western CIO Lev Gonick says the objective is to see whether hyper-speed networks and the variety of services they support can help fix the wide range of health and education problems in those communities.

"We hypothesize that creating interactive, home-based extensions of health, learning, and safety, along with energy management, will lead to positive outcomes," Gonick says. The project's home-based extensions include a one-gigabit network connection, which will enable residents to videoconference with health care providers and take readings from pedometers, blood pressure monitors, and other health-monitoring tools in the home and send that information to residents' doctors.

The homes also will receive neighborhood surveillance feeds, and be connected to six public safety organizations in the community. Utility meter monitors will calculate each home's energy consumption and compare it to other homes in the neighborhood to find ways of minimizing utility bills.

Gonick says the research effort is not an altruistic endeavor. "It's actually trying to change models for health care, models for public safety, models for energy consumption and energy management," he says.

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