UT-based Fiber Optic Network Expands Global Reach

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KNOXVILLE — It circles the globe connecting the hearts, minds and work of people at universities and research institutions around the world.

The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development, or GLORIAD, is a network of fiber-optic rings that circles the world to allow scientists, students and educators to collaborate in solving some of the planet’s biggest science problems.

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“Climate change and environmental degradation and energy needs — these are problems that require us to work together,” said Greg Cole, director of GLORIAD.

Cole is working this summer to expand GLORIAD’s reach internationally and in our own back yard.

Cole describes GLORIAD, which is housed at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as a separate internet that has the technological advances and capacity to allow scientists to transmit entire libraries of information in seconds, permit thousands of simultaneous video-conferences, and, someday, even enable surgeons to operate on patients on the other side of the world.

GLORIAD grew out of the end of the Cold War, linking the U.S. with Russia. It later spread to China, Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, five Nordic countries, and this summer is adding Egypt, other parts of Africa and the Middle East, India, Singapore…and the list goes on.

The idea is to connect the U.S. with countries it’s currently not well-connected to.

“The magic of the internet for me was that it creates the possibility for people to engage in peaceful, productive, work together and maybe enables us to collaborate, to get to know each other and to realize what is common about us as opposed to focusing, as we often do, on our differences,” Cole said.

Also this summer, GLORIAD is adding a social networking site, http://www.zeeba.net, that enables users to exchange ideas on how to use the advanced telecommunications services better.

“The idea is to let the community tell their stories of how to effectively use the technology. And we are just trying to create an ecosystem in which those people can basically function as a sharing community,” Cole said.

At first, GLORIAD only connected scientists but now Cole wants to connect future scientists. He’s starting by connecting one local Knox County School, Hardin Valley Academy, to the network, so the kids can collaborate on science projects with their peers in China and Egypt.

“Tennessee is known, because of our GLORIAD network, for connecting much of the world of science and education, but one of the problems that we have is that our young people of Tennessee have little access to these technologies,” Cole said.

Cole believes by connecting minds, GLORIAD may not only help conquer the challenges the world faces today but also change the world, one fiber optic ring at a time.

“I hope these communications networks enable us to build a — I know it sounds corny — more peaceful world,” Cole said.

GLORIAD partners with the E-Arena consortium of research and education networks in Russia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, SURFnet in the Netherlands, NORDUnet in the Nordic countries, CANARIE in Canada, ENSTInet in Egypt, SingAREN in Singapore, National Knowledge Network in India and Tata Institute for Fundamental Research and CNIC/CSTnet for cyber infrastructure deployment.

GLORIAD’s primary sponsor in the U.S. is the National Science Foundation with more than $18.5 million dollars committed since 1998. It also is sponsored by Tata Communications, Telecom Egypt, National Lamba Rail, Internet2, ESnet for the U.S. Department of Energy, the NASA networks, and the federal research and education networks for all U.S. research organizations.

To learn more about GLORIAD, visit http://www.gloriad.org/gloriaddrupal/.

To learn more about Hardin Valley Academy, visit http://hardinvalleyac.knoxschools.org/.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460, wholmes7@utk.edu)

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