As you might recall, Google is building Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) networks in Kansas City, MO and at Stanford University. Google claims it will offer 1 Gbps broadband at a price consistent with services offered by other broadband providers. (The service is currently offered at $49/month to a handful of customers in Palo Alto.) But what will consumers actually do with such a fat pipe? Most assume that question can't be answered until the service is launched.

But Kansas City-based Think Big Partners is impatient. The early-stage business incubator has launched a crowdsourcing contest of sorts to identify apps or services that have the potential to advantage of all that bandwidth. The Gigabit Challenge will award a total of $200,000 in cash and services to the top ideas, with $100,000 going to the winner. Entries must be submitted between October 3 and October 31; a round of 25 finalists will be announced in mid-November; follow-up business plans are to be submitted by mid-December; and the winners will be announced in mid- to late-January 2012 — right about the time when the Google network should be up and running.

This is another example of the creative use of crowdsourcing, which provides benefits all around:

  • Bright, creative people are incentivized to think twice about the use cases for a 1 Gbps broadband connection — even those who are not directly linked to this market;
  • Developers who have already crafted ideas on how to leverage this asset have a chance at some early capital and promotional opportunities that could get them up and running quicker;
  • Think Big Partners gets first crack at helping these product ideas see the light of day, which comes with access to financial benefits that the company hopes will dwarf the costs of financing the contest; and
  • Consumers with a bright, shiny 1 Gbps connection will ultimately benefit from access to creative, useful apps and services sooner than later.

Product strategists and innovation managers take heed: You don't have to have all the answers yourself. Sometimes a little creative thinking is all you need to unearth new product or innovation opportunities.