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10 cool network and computing research projects

Bob Brown | Jan. 22, 2015
Much of well-funded research is aimed at security, simplifying use of current technology and figuring out how to more easily plow through mounds of big data. Here's at peek at 10 projects.

If you think the latest enterprise and consumer network and computer technologies rolling into your data center and being snuck into your offices by end users are advanced, wait until you see what's cooking in the labs at universities and tech companies. Much of well-funded research is aimed at security, simplifying use of current technology and figuring out how to more easily plow through mounds of big data. Here's at peek at 10 projects. 

Idiot-proof Smartphone Charging

Microsoft researchers are working on technology to make smartphone charging much less of a burden for users. The techniques being explored include an image-processing technique for detecting and locating smartphones in an office as well as solar/photovoltaic cell technology that works indoors to AutoCharge phones via a beam of light.

The prototype developed showed evidence of being able to charge phones as fast as wire-based solutions, according to the researchers, and easier to use than current wireless charging techniques that require users to put their phones on a charging pad.

Lazy Supercomputing

You'd think there's nothing lazy at all these days about supercomputing given how fast these beasts process data, but computer scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility are taking what they call a lazy approach to making the machines run more efficiently.

More specifically, the researchers are seeking a better way of "checkpointing" applications, that is, storing info about the app's state. They want to avoid checkpointing too often on high-performance computers, but want to do it enough so that if there is an app or system failure that minimal work will be lost. Their notion based upon their research is that errors tend to cluster around an original hardware failure, so checkpointing frequency should be increased at that point, but then eased off once things settle down. Such lazy checkpointing could reduce I/O volume 20% to 30%, and that would give supercomputers a real performance boost.

Getting a Fast Start

Cornell University researchers, along with colleagues from the University of Connecticut and other institutions, recently published a paper in the journal Nature that describes a theoretical and experimental discovery involving the use of a multiferroic material (bismuth ferrite) to build a memory device that conjures up visions of lightweight computers that start up even faster than some of today's quick-start offerings.

Their advance would potentially allow for smaller, more reliable and less energy-intensive devices by getting around the need to use electric currents to encode data even at room temperature. While their breakthrough is promising, they made just a single device, and it would take billions of them to build a usable computer memory system, according to Cornell.

 

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