Chattanooga’s fast Internet service racks up another win

Wed, 2015-02-18 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

Chattanooga’s high-speed fiber optic network continues to pay dividends.  

It already offers residents of the Tennessee city the fastest Internet service in the U.S. Now it enables them to test drive and help develop next-generation smart city solutions.

This latest benefit comes via the arrival of a “GENI rack” at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). Part of a National Science Foundation initiative called Global Environment for Network Innovations, GENI racks are components in a new, nationwide infrastructure scheme that supports advanced research in networking, distributed systems, security and gigabit-enabled applications.

A research lab for tomorrow’s Internet

What exactly does a GENI rack do? By itself, a GENI rack is more or less a set of high-performance servers coupled with advanced network capabilities. However, Chattanooga's rack is linked with GENI racks at 60 other universities across the U.S. and overseas. Collectively, these connected racks create “a programmable nervous system for researching and deploying the next generation of the Internet and cloud computing,” explains the UTC in a statement announcing its GENI rack’s arrival.

This system essentially serves as a powerful virtual laboratory for experimenting with future Internet technologies and fostering innovations in network science and services.

The fact that Chattanooga citizens get to access to this high-flying lab has much to do with the ultra-fast Internet service the city-run utility, EPB, implemented in 2013. Subscribers to the EPB fiber optic network are able to connect to the Chattanooga’s GENI rack from their homes and small businesses.

Gigabit telemedicine and more

Many of the applications Chattanoogans are testing over the Internet include smart city solutions for education, healthcare and public safety.

For example, Chattanooga is experimenting with gigabit telemedicine by showing that, in emergency cases, gigabyte medical images could be reviewed by a radiologists from their homes in the middle of the night. 

Chattanooga technology enthusiasts are eager to see gigabit projects developed, deployed and tested over its GENI rack connection. The Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund is specifically promoting projects in Chattanooga, but interest is coming from other quarters, too.

“We are receiving many inquiries from leading-edge researchers who seek a critical mass of gigabit users,” said Ken Hays, president and CEO of The Enterprise Center, an organization working to establish Chattanooga as an innovation hub. “With the GENI connection, we will be working with such researchers across the country focusing initially on smart grid, additive manufacturing and healthcare services.”

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