UC Berkeley-led initiative to promote societal benefits of information
technology wins $7.1 million grant from NSF
By Sarah Yang
25 September 2001, Berkeley - The National Science Foundation today
(Tues., Sept. 25) announced a five-year, $7.1 million grant to the
Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society
(CITRIS), a new University of California, Berkeley-led initiative that
will sponsor innovative research to solve some of the nation's toughest
economic and social challenges.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will support work in two of
the major application areas that CITRIS is exploring: energy efficiency
and disaster preparedness. Campus researchers affiliated with CITRIS,
for example, plan to equip buildings with wireless sensor networks to
monitor energy use - technology that could save as much as $7 billion in
California's energy costs and reduce emissions of carbon by 5 million
metric tons each year. That same technology can also be used to monitor
the safety of the structure, help occupants and emergency personnel
respond to disasters, and suggest areas that may require maintenance.
CITRIS technologies already have helped people all over the world find
out whether their friends and family are safe in the aftermath of the
deadly terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. A UC Berkeley computer science
faculty member and two graduate students* created a Web site powered by
"Millennium" - a cluster of 1,000 processors that are networked
together. The computers, donated by private industry, handled up to 100
Web queries per second. (see < http://safe.millennium.berkeley.edu >)
The awards are part of the federal government's Information Technology
Research (ITR) initiative, a program that began in 2000 and is designed
to foster innovative information technology research. The UC Berkeley
grant for CITRIS is one of eight large ITR awards nationwide totaling
between $5.5 million and $13.75 million each. In all, the NSF is
awarding 309 grants totaling $156 million over the next three to five
years. They include four other awards totaling more than $1.1 million to
UC Berkeley professors, two of whom are in the College of Engineering.
"NSF is proud to be a leader with these bold ITR projects," said NSF
director Rita Colwell, who announced the awards at a presentation today
to the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. "Through
long-term, high-risk research, we expect a wide range of positive
results that will benefit the nation as a whole."
CITRIS - a partnership between UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and
UC Merced - was proposed to the State of California last year in
response to a bold and visionary plan by Gov. Gray Davis to create the
California Institutes for Science and Innovation (CISI). The state is
investing $100 million in the CITRIS institute over the next four years,
and that amount will be matched by at least $200 million in additional
support from companies, federal agencies and private donors.
"I am delighted that the state's investment in CITRIS is already
beginning to bring in additional federal research dollars," Davis said.
"CITRIS and the other CISI institutes will keep California at the
cutting-edge of advanced technologies - fostering economic growth and
creating high-tech, high-wage jobs. CITRIS will also ensure that these
new technologies serve the public interest by cutting our energy bill,
protecting the environment, expanding access to educational opportunity
through distance learning, and saving lives and property in disasters."
"CITRIS is unprecedented in its scale and scope," said UC Berkeley
College of Engineering Dean A. Richard Newton. "This new NSF grant will
allow our faculty and students to design and build the underlying
technologies for the Internet of the 21st century, now sometimes
referred to as the 'Evernet' - a dependable, reliable and secure
information technology infrastructure that will connect trillions of
devices, not just millions of computers. This infrastructure is a key
component of the CITRIS research agenda; it will be used to tackle and
solve tough problems that will improve the quality of life and safety
for Californians and people throughout the world."
"The research agenda of CITRIS is not just more and better technology,
but making the massive amounts of information provided accessible and
useful to all people who need it," said James Demmel, CITRIS chief
scientist and author of the proposal.
CITRIS also is supported by major grants from other government agencies
such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Founding
corporate partners include many leading high-tech companies:
BroadVision, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Infineon Technologies,
Intel, Marvell Technology Group, Microsoft, Nortel Networks,
STMicroelectronics and Sun Microsystems.
* The idea stemmed from Miriam Walker, a UC Berkeley computer science
graduate student, who had members of her co-op borrow her phone to try
to call the East Coast.
Walker said she realized that the volume of people trying to phone the
affected areas was making it impossible for anyone to receive proper
information. The overwhelming volume of calls were also hindering
She quickly called her friend, Ka-Ping Yee, also a UC Berkeley computer
science graduate student, to help her program the Web site.
"I just woke up because (another) friend called—I was walking around in
a daze, probably in disbelief," Yee said. "I came back and found the
phone message (from Walker). She had the idea to make this database, but
she didn't have a programmer. I ran into her office and did it."
Yee quickly learned PHP, a database programming language, while he
worked in order to get the site running.
< http://safe.millennium.berkeley.edu >
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