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National network innovation program builds on UW–Madison success

June 14, 2012 By Chris Barncard

Suman Banerjee’s work finds plenty of happy users every day, but it’s not every day the University of Wisconsin–Madison computer sciences professor helps inspire a national program supporting technical innovation.

Today — with Banerjee in attendance — John Holdren, President Barak Obama’s science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh launched US Ignite, an initiative aimed to spur development of new uses for next-generation computer networks running as much as 100 times faster than most high-speed Internet connections.

US Ignite will build on the success of the Global Environment for Networking Innovation (GENI), a nationwide experimentation infrastructure co-developed by Banerjee, and which also serves as a test platform for his WiRover project.

Logo: US Ignite


GENI provides a network on which WiRover delivers high-speed broadband Internet all sorts of public transportation vehicles around the Midwest. Madison Metro bus riders have high-speed Wi-Fi access during their daily commutes. Van Galder buses making trips between cities like Chicago and Minneapolis can offer enough bandwidth for riders to watch streaming movies or catch up on work. WiRover provides ambulances in the field with connections powerful enough to send real-time video of patients to emergency room doctors.

The connected vehicles could also tap new applications for traffic safety, vehicle performance and efficiency, and passenger entertainment and productivity not possible without the network-hopping connection.

“We developed WiRover on GENI’s network, which allowed us to try a number of things and offer so many capabilities that were not available on the existing networks,” Banerjee says.

NSF will serve as the lead government agency for US Ignite, expanding the footprint of GENI — which included UW–Madison and nearly 60 other sites around the country -and encouraging the development of more applications that take advantage of advanced networks.

“GENI became a very large-scale test bed,” Banerjee says. “And because it is so large, researchers can do very large experiments — experiments that could result in significant societal impact.”