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What a Web These Engineers Weave

From Virginia Engineering
December 11, 1998

Everyone is searching and finding on the Internet these days, thanks to the invisible work of researchers like these

Imagine a computer that responds to disaster with speed and accuracy. Relief workers, struggling to help, enter information about the unfolding crisis. In minutes, their needs are answered with a list of resources, help from around the world and means by which to reach it. Imagine instant access to medical data on the hazards arising at the scene, information on transportation networks, accurate weather predictions for the disaster site.

It's closer to reality than you may think, thanks to one of the engineering school's many Internet-related research programs.

Relief in the disaster imagined above is one of many uses for Personalized Information Environments (PIE), a program due online within two years. PIE is the collaborative creation of computer science faculty James C. French and Andrew Grimshaw, working together with Charles Viles, a computer scientist at the University of North Carolina.

PIE combines artificial intelligence, advanced information retrieval techniques, and dis. tributed computing, by which it links many computers to create a single virtual supercomputer. It creates a giant database with high-speed search capabilities that can automatically capture or filter out data for the user and send an alert when something important to the user shows up on the Internet, anywhere in the world.

Internet applications for the business community are already up and running, thanks to the work of research teams led by U.Va.'s Alfred Weaver. InterCom, the University's Internet Commerce Group, has built a number of Internet-based systems to promote economic development in Virginia. InterCom is now working on further web-based projects to help the business community, by developing ways to use the Internet to create and tally surveys, to distribute press releases, and to publish magazines electronically.

As more and more people use the Internet and the World Wide Web, there is more need for literature to guide them. One of the leading authors of such user friendly books is SEAS professor Bryan Pfaffenberger of the Division of Technology, Search Strategies, Protect Your Privacy on the Internet, and Publish It on the Web. The Internet provides a new venue for conferences and seminars, bringing people together despite being miles, even continents, apart. Real-time Internet conferencing is the focus of a research group led by computer science professor Jörg Liebeherr, whose work has implications for business and education. Liebeherr's group has held a live Internet conference with faculty and students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They foresee larger sessions involving several sites in the future.

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