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iSGTW Feature - ORIENT project supports Chinese earthquake aid

Feature - ORIENT grid project supports Chinese earthquake aid work

The idea behind the sending of high-definition image of China's earthquake damage on the ORIENT grid can be traced to the transmission of radio-telescope data from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory to Europe.

Image courtesy of GÉANT2

When a major earthquake struck Sichuan, China last May, rescue workers urgently needed high-resolution satellite images of the affected areas in order to identify the extent of the earthquake's devastation and aid in post-disaster relief. They also wanted the information to help protect the area from further risk during rebuilding efforts.

To do so, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology turned to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) for a key item to analysis and reconstruction:
The ORIENT project's high-capacity data communication route.

Normally used to link research and education networks between China and Europe for things such as high speed transmission of astronomical data from Chinese telescopes to a supercomputer in the Netherlands, this high-bandwidth tool was used to speed high resolution images and data from uncharted areas of destruction to the authorities.

The grids' reach allowed for rapid transmission of satellite images of earthquake damage in China to go from Europe to rescue workers in Sichuan.

Image courtesy of ORIENT

34 countries, 30 networks

Jointly funded by Europe and China, the ORIENT project provides a high-speed connection between the pan-European research network GÉANT2-the high bandwidth research and education network that connects researchers in 34 countries across Europe, through 30 national research and education networks-and the Chinese Research and Education Network CERNET and the China Science and Tecnnology Network, or CSTnet.

With the success of ORIENT, researchers hope to use a similar approach to help improve the capabilities of the European Commission, World Bank and United Nations when coping with natural disasters, by developing similar grid-based imaging "toolkits" for aid workers to use.

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, says, "Modern communication networks such as ORIENT are essential for an effective and speedy collaboration between the European Commission's researchers and local government in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake in China. In such a situation of natural and human disaster, we cannot afford to rely on conventional means of communication, such as fax and post, but need modern tools for carrying out a proper analysis within short deadlines. ORIENT provides the bandwidth to transport high detail images, thereby making an important contribution to speeding up the reconstruction of infrastructure and to saving human lives."

-Dan Drollette, iSGTW

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