REDMOND, Wash., April 28, 1999 — A surgeon at a computer screen in Boston assists a team of colleagues performing a life-saving operation in France, participating in every step of the procedure via a high-speed Internet connection to medical equipment and video cameras that provide real-time information about the patient’s condition. You join several friends for a live concert in London, talking eagerly about the artist as the crowd gathers, but you’re still at home in your favorite chair and all of your friends live more than 200 miles away. Far-fetched? Not anymore.
A project called Internet2 is leading the way toward making these ideas everyday realities for society by bringing together researchers who are developing technology and applications for the next generation of the Internet. Today, Microsoft committed financial and intellectual resources to help universities, government researchers and more than 15 corporate partners develop the successor to today’s Internet, which experts believe could operate at speeds up to 45,000 times faster than the best telephone modems people now use
At COMDEX/Spring ’99 last week, Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and CEO, talked about Microsoft’s vision of giving people access to the Internet anywhere, any time, from any device. According to Gates, Microsoft and the rest of the computing industry have expanded the vision of a PC on every desk in every home. While the PC may still be at the center of what most people do with computers, there are numerous other computing devices that empower people. Gates predicts that all of these devices will have built-in browsers in the near future. Today’s challenge is to help the Internet become more robust and to simplify connectivity so that everyone will be able to benefit from the Web lifestyle and have easy access to information.
The University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) provides leadership and direction for advanced networking development within the United States university community. UCAID’s activities include the Internet2 project, a collaborative effort to develop advanced Internet technology and applications. More than 150 U.S. universities, working together with partners in industry and government, are leading the Internet2 project. And Internet2 is forming alliances with counterparts in other parts of the world.
According to Ron Johnson, an Internet2 member and the Vice President of Computing & Communications at the University of Washington, “The potential for delivering tele-immersion, tele-medicine and high-quality video, TV, telephony and multimedia that is robust and real-time is no longer just a dream. If these services and others needed for electronic business are to become real across the desktops of the world, it’s simply essential to have Microsoft’s research and product development people partnering with us.”
Microsoft already has several projects devoted to network research, technology transfer, and activities in areas such as distance learning and educational technology. Besides committing more than $1 million in goods and services to Internet2, Microsoft also will exchange ideas from some of its current projects with other Internet2 researchers. Microsoft personnel, from both Microsoft Research and Product Development groups, also will participate in research that is already in progress and being led by the nine Internet2 working groups.
Microsoft’s active role in Internet2 may involve hosting Internet2 member meetings, technology exchange conferences and other events. As many experts have noted, the Internet is too big and complex for any one company or group to redesign and improve. Microsoft is committed to being part of a worldwide team that improves the Internet and brings its power to the average citizen.
While the Internet2 project is working to enable applications, such as tele-medicine, digital libraries and virtual laboratories, which are not possible with the technology underlying today’s Internet, UCAID is pursuing corresponding projects such as Abilene. Abilene is the Internet2 backbone, which connects regional network aggregation points, called GigaPoPs, in several dozen locations nationwide. Microsoft will be connected to this high-performance network through the Pacific Northwest GigaPoP, led by the University of Washington in Seattle.
Using Abilene, a patient recently underwent keyhole surgery at Ohio State University with the assistance of doctors in Washington, D.C. in late February. Doctors in Washington could see video images transmitted by instruments inside the patient, while surgeons in the operating room used those same images to guide their actions. Both teams of doctors also received the same real-time data from instruments monitoring the patient’s condition. As the technology matures, the Internet could be used for more complex medical uses, such as instantaneous consultation with specialists around the world or remote surgeries performed with the assistance of robots.
Although most benefits of Internet2 and Abilene are several years away for businesses and individuals, new technologies being tested by Internet2 eventually will be deployed on the global Internet and will benefit all of society. Just as email and the World Wide Web evolved from the earlier work of academic and federal research groups, the work currently being done by the Internet2 project eventually will bring about services and tools we can only imagine.