Last april, the incredible speed of data travel over Internet2 has been demonstrated at the National Internet2 Members Conference in Washington D.C. Together with the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the University of Yale has set up a study of human anatomy. This project was chosen as one of the showcase applications to put Internet2 through its paces with regard to its promising high-speed exchange capacities of three-dimensional medical images. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been funding Internet2 to fill the need for an advanced research network. The successful implementation of Internet2 for scientific purposes might even provoke a call for Internet3.
The Internet as we know it today, has taken on the appearance of a congested highway due to overloading use by all kinds of interested groups in the commercial, governmental, educational, and professional domain. In October 1996, a number of American universities, including Yale, decided to create a leading-edge, high-performance, national network, specifically for the research community to avoid the traffic jam on the common Internet. The NSF also financially supported the underlying infrastructure, referred to as the very High Performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS). The vBNS currently operates at 622 megabits per second, but the ultimate target has been set at 2.4 billion bits per second.
Internet2 is managed by the non-profit University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID). More than one hundred universities already have entered the project. In June 1997, the NSF has allocated a two-year grant of $350.000 to Yale University for the connection of the campus network to the vBNS. Currently, Yale is investing in the upgrading of individual researchers' workstations connectivity in order to enable them to benefit from the network speed of 100 megabits per second and beyond. Director of Yale's Information Technology Services, Daniel A. Updegrove, believes Internet2 will open ways to various research, teaching and clinical initiatives of high-speed networking, not only limited to universities.
The human anatomy study is one of the applications for which hundreds of megabytes of data transmission are required during each working session, according to Professor C. Carl Jaffe, leader of Yale's Centre for Advanced Instructional Media. The 3D digital images are utilised for physician training and research. To that purpose, medical images and organ models from the NLM Visible Human Project in Bethesda, Maryland, are being analysed. Professor Jaffe is equally involved in a project with the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the image indexing and distribution of enormous medical databases. Internet2 offers the necessary bandwidth to enable image data transfer between the project partners.
Yale University uses the NSF grant for still two other scientific projects. The first one deals with imaging of the visual cortex and is being led by Professor Steven Zucker. This expert in computer science and electrical engineering works together with researchers at the University of California in San Francisco to reveal new approaches in computational neuroscience and optical imaging. Professor Michael Zeller leads the second project, involving high-energy physics research, in collaboration with experimental facilities, like the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre in California, Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Illinois, Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, and CERN in Geneva.
In the March Issue of the Virtual Medical Worlds Magazine, you can find more information on the birth and development of Internet2 in the article "Enhanced speed and quality of Internet2 offers new telemedicine opportunities".