CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Officials from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's SimCenter: National Center for Computational Engineering, SimCenter Enterprises, Inc., and Chattanooga's Gig City initiative were on hand in Washington when the White House launched U.S. Ignite, a national innovation initiative for developing and deploying public sector applications and services on ultra-fast networks

SimCenter Enterprises, Inc., which received one of only three National Science Foundation Early concept Grant for Network Innovation (EAGER) awards, is developing a Disaster Mitigation System using research completed at the UT Chattanooga SimCenter.

Dr. Harry McDonald, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Excellence in Computational Engineering at UT Chattanooga's SimCenter, was among those on hand at the White House for the announcement Thursday. "The community and country that lead in the next generation of the Internet will dominate a lot of economic activity," said McDonald. "The U.S. Ignite philosophy is to generate applications that drive the next generation Internet. It will cause a lot of commercial interest to increase and gain economic advantage by being first movers in a new technology."

U.S. Ignite leverages important contributions from researchers across the nation who participate in the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Global Environment for Networking Innovation (GENI). The initiative funds projects that require very high-speed multi-tiered programmable networks and supercomputing. Researchers from UT Chattanooga's SimCenter and Computer Science Department are involved in the Disaster Mitigation System development.

The Disaster Mitigation System developed by UT Chattanooga's SimCenter utilizes resources from GENI, Chattanooga's EPB gigabit network, and the City of Chattanooga to develop a system to alert and advise emergency first responders during the event of a toxic release (such as a dirty bomb, chlorine spill, methane gas leak, etc.). The system uses sensors located throughout the city to detect an emergency and then analyze the spread of the contaminant so that emergency personnel can determine the safest and most efficient evacuation routes for the civilian population.

"If you are sitting in an emergency control room, you can see sensors distributed around a city and you can see the traffic management software systems," said McDonald. "If something has happened in a city, maybe a chlorine spill, or maybe a fire, there will be a need to bring the emergency services up and get them deployed to the area, to divert the population away from this area, and to bring necessary resources in to it to deal with the situation.  Our software system does all that."

The US Ignite launch featured the President's Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, John Holdren; NSF Director, Subra Suresh; and other prominent officials from government, industry, and academia.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is among more than 60 universities across the country participating in NSF's Global Environment for Network Innovation (GENI).  

"This is a celebration of collaboration," said UT Chattanooga Chancellor Roger Brown. "The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga provides the research and intellectual capital with access to the EPB's Gigabit capability and the City of Chattanooga's entrepreneurial spirit to create a successful economic endeavor for the GENI and U.S. Ignite programs."

SimCenter Enterprises Inc. is a non-profit organization representing a collaboration between The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the SimCenter: National Center for Computational Engineering, and private enterprise. Its mission is to identify, develop, and promote practical and commercial applications of the technologies developed within the SimCenter.

"The SimCenter has been perfecting these technologies, but up until now, they have been in a large part trapped in the SimCenter. SimCenter Enterprises is charged with finding applications for these technologies," said Tim Walsh, president and CEO of SimCenter Enterprises, Inc. "In this case, we take plume dispersion, agent-based modeling and traffic simulation, and put all those together. Now we are able to provide very quick information to public safety officials."  

NSF announced that it will serve as the lead government agency for US Ignite, expand the footprint of GENI and encourage the development of novel, next-generation applications and services that take advantage of these advanced networks and have potential for significant societal impact.