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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
What could the Grid do for me?
Tony Hey director of the Uk's core e-science program
Tony Hey sees huge potential for the Grid
The internet has rapidly become an indispensable tool for accessing information.

But already computer experts are working on its successor.

"Grid" technology is being dubbed internet 2.

It offers the ability to plug into a global network of computer systems and have access not just to information but also to processing power.

For example, with the internet it is possible to view a web page displaying a weather forecast for your region.


If we get a grid that really works it will move into entertainment and that is one of the ways that economics are fought

Tony Hey
Director of UK's core e-science program

This is not much use if you want a barbecue in your back yard at the weekend and want to know if it will be sunny, said Tony Hey, director of the UK's core e-science program.

However, the Grid could enable an individual to use the computer resources that created the forecast to dial up a weather forecast for their own home.

In the world envisaged by Mr Hey, "casual access" to supercomputers will be possible for domestic users.

They can use the huge processing power of supercomputers to carry out complex tasks that would not be possible on a home computer, such as providing accurate modelling of weather forecasts.

In another project, astronomy students in Edinburgh can do lessons in the night skies of Hawaii without leaving their classroom in the Scottish capital.

Mr Hey said: "They can control the telescope in Hawaii, take pictures and do whatever they would if they were actually using the telescope."

Computer
The Grid would give access to supercomputers

"The telescope is in Hawaii, the computer processing the information may be elsewhere and the students accessing it are in a classroom in Edinburgh. That is the Grid vision."

Professor Malcolm Atkinson, director of the National e-Science centre in Edinburgh, thinks that entertainment could be the key to moving Grid technology out of the science labs and into homes.

He said: "If we get a grid that really works it will move into entertainment and that is one of the ways that economics are fought."

Sophisticated computer games that require far more power than could ever be available on a games console could drive the Grid into the domestic arena.

Prof Atkinson sees 22 people taking part in a simulated football game, each taking the part of one of the players from the comfort of their armchairs in different houses.

Personal health care monitoring is another of the endless applications for the Grid technology.

Massive power

"We will see industry using it very heavily before that," he said.

"The engineering industry and pharmaceutical companies will be using it very soon.

He said it will take a little longer for industries concerned with security such as finance to use it for sharing outside resources.

But they will be able to use it inside their companies in the same way that they use the internet.

Prof Atkinson said that the ultimate vision is for anyone to use the web to get things done using complex computer programs sitting on computers with massive power.

See also:

22 Jul 02 | Scotland
25 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
03 Apr 01 | Health
27 Jul 01 | Scotland
02 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
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