Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) Challenges Showcase Summer 2018

Imagine your life without the Internet. What connections to people would you lose? To the things you love? To vital information about your community? 34 million people in the U.S. — 10% of the country’s population — lack access to quality Internet connectivity, a number that jumps to 39% in rural communities and 41% on Tribal lands. When disasters strike, these staggering statistics are compounded: millions more can lose vital connectivity right when it’s needed most.

We are seeking solutions to connect the unconnected. The Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) Challenges, run by Mozilla and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, seek practical, new wireless solutions that will help connect people to the Internet in challenging circumstances: after a disaster or in areas without sufficient connectivity. We’re seeking wireless technology innovations that will make the Internet more accessible, resilient, and healthier.

A total of $2 million in prize money is available for U.S.-based entrants to one of two separate challenges:

  1. Off-The-Grid Internet Challenge: Wireless solutions for communication that can be rapidly deployed in post-disaster situations where Internet access is unavailable or compromised.
  2. Smart-Community Networks Challenge: Wireless solutions for communication that can be built on top of existing infrastructure to enhance Internet connectivity in communities that need greater access.

The NSF-WINS Challenges will not only identify a broad set of wireless technology solutions to increase access to the Internet, but will also broaden the dialogue around access in the United States, grow the community of problem solvers and innovators working on these issues and strengthen the network of people working toward a healthier Internet.


Prizes and entrants eligible to compete in Stage 2 will be announced in January 2018. Stage 2 Working Prototype submissions will be accepted through June 22, 2018. Prizes will be announced in or around August 2018. Finalists during the Working Prototype Stage may be required to provide live demos for judges and/or a public audience at a Challenges Showcase in Summer 2018.


Challenge 1: Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge

How can we leverage wireless technology to keep people connected to each other and to vital information sources in the aftermath of a disaster where Internet access is unavailable or compromised?

The Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge seeks solutions that can provide connectivity in one of the most challenging situations: the immediate aftermath of a major disaster. When disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes strike, communications networks are often among the first pieces of critical infrastructure to overload or fail, leaving individuals disconnected from one another and from essential services and communications. With a total of $1M in prize money, the Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge seeks solutions that help individuals wirelessly access each other and information services like maps and messaging following a disaster.

Challenge 2: Smart Community Networks Challenge

How can we leverage existing infrastructure to provide robust wireless Internet connectivity in communities that need greater access?

Ten percent of all Americans — 34 million people — lack access to quality Internet connectivity. The Smart Community Networks Challenge aims to close this access gap by enhancing wireless connectivity in areas where Internet access is a challenge, whether due to geographic, financial or other factors. With a total of $1M in prize money, the Smart Community Networks Challenge seeks wireless solutions that leverage existing physical infrastructure to provide robust access to the whole Internet in underserved areas.