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Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3)

Gov. Davis singles out UC Berkeley information technology project to be fourth California Institute for Science and Innovation, with funding to be sought next year
07 Dec 2000

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations

Berkeley - Gov. Gray Davis today (Thursday, Dec. 7) established three new California Institutes for Science and Innovation and said he will ask the state Legislature to fund a fourth center at the University of California, Berkeley. Awarded $100 million each over the next four years are the California Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedical Research, centered at UC San Francisco but with major research components at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz; the California Nanosystems Institute at UCLA; and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology at UC San Diego.

The fourth, which Davis endorsed for funding next year, is UC Berkeley's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). The center's projects - involving engineers, scientists and scholars from UC Berkeley, as well as from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced - would have a major impact on California's economy, quality of life and future success. Davis proposed funding three California institutes last January to help the state maintain its premier standing in science and technology and to provide the technological foundations for the state's future economic growth.

The goal of CITRIS, conceived by UC Berkeley faculty members in the College of Engineering, is to bring the highly touted benefits of information technology, or IT, to aspects of society that tend to get overlooked, such as transportation, education, emergency preparedness and health care.

"This project is about solving society's most challenging problems, about improving the quality of people's lives," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl.

"There will be a great deal of very interesting and high-impact technology springing out of CITRIS that will benefit all areas of society," added A. Richard Newton, dean of the UC Berkeley College of Engineering and a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

Business and private donors have pledged CITRIS more than $170 million over four years, including nearly $50 million from industry and more than $120 million in individual donations. Along with the $100 million from the state and an expected $80-plus million in private and federal research grants and contracts, CITRIS would receive total funding of more than $350 million over four years.

Among the corporate sponsors are Agilent Technologies Inc., BroadVision Inc., Conexant Systems Inc., Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Infineon Technologies AG, Intel Corp., Marvell Technology Group Ltd., Microsoft Corp., Nortel Networks Corp., STMicroelectronics, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc.

CITRIS projects range from the design of information systems for emergency and disaster response in an earthquake to life-saving medical alert sensors, to "smart" buildings that automatically adjust their internal environment, saving both energy and pollution costs. Project computer scientists also will create smart classrooms for distance learning to allow UC Merced's new students to tap into the teaching talent at UC Berkeley.

"This project is an opportunity for emergent technologies to meet real world applications," said Randy Katz, director of CITRIS and a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences. "So many projects are pushed by the technology. CITRIS has turned this around, so that the applications are a pull on the technology."

"Much of CITRIS has to do with scaling to real people, like a policeman trying to find out what's happening after an earthquake," added James Demmel, professor of computer science at UC Berkeley and chief scientist and associate director of CITRIS.

The close collaboration with industry built into CITRIS will ensure that key research insights and developments will be disseminated rapidly to benefit the citizens and industries of California. Many of the fruits of CITRIS will be published on the Web, free to all, including the source code of any software created, the content of databases and any other copyrightable material.

One of the first goals of CITRIS is to create Societal-scale Information Systems (SIS) - networks that might reach broadly across the state and nation, like specialized versions of the Internet, tying together devices ranging from tiny sensors to hand-held data pads, desktop computers and room-sized supercomputers, and connect with wireless networks.

SISs also must be reliable and secure, able to diagnose and fix themselves and available even when part of the network is down. Novices and experts both must be able to use them.

Such systems would become the backbone of other projects, including smart classrooms, smart buildings and an urban SIS for transportation planning, emergency and disaster response and environmental monitoring. Other networks would handle data from thousands of medical sensors, such as heart monitors, and relay problems to emergency medical personnel for quick response.

Many of these applications depend on the development of "smart dust" - small, cheap sensors with built-in wireless communications and onboard computers. Such devices are now under development by UC Berkeley teams using the latest MEMS, wireless and mini-processor technology.

CITRIS collaborators from UC Davis are working on major research projects in optical networking and have strong experience in environmental applications. UC Santa Cruz has a unique environmental monitoring network around Monterey Bay. The CITRIS project harnesses the expertise of civil and mechanical engineers and social scientists in addition to computer scientists. "We hope to make ethical issues as high a priority as engineering decisions," said Demmel.

At UC Berkeley, a significant portion of the money will go toward building two new buildings. One would include a hub for distance learning courses, including a tele-laboratory accessible through the Internet that can be used by industry scientists or high school teachers to learn engineering fabrication, robotics and even chip design.

These buildings also would be prototype smart buildings where environmental monitors and sensors are tied into a single wireless network that keeps track of energy use, the condition of the structure and where people are in an emergency.

Katz, Newton and Demmel are confident the CITRIS group will fulfill its promises on schedule, in part because much of the technology is already under development at laboratories on the UC campuses. The new challenge will be channeling these projects into a defined set of goals.

"Information technology is what ties all these enormously different projects together," Demmel said, "and together they will have much more impact than any one project or department could have by itself."


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