Research in Alberta on information and communications technology is poised to benefit from three proposed projects between the Alberta government and HP.

Memoranda of understanding signed today between the Alberta government and HP set the stage for the development of joint research projects on advanced computing and data center management, nanotechnology and advanced videoconferencing technology.

The proposed projects include the establishment of a new facility at the University of Calgary for work on advanced data centre operation, joint research with the National Institute for Nanotechnology to develop tiny sensors to improve medical and environmental diagnostics, and work with the University of Alberta to advance videoconferencing technology. These research collaborations would extend ongoing relationships between HP and the two universities.

“We are pleased to see our collaboration with HP has progressed since we signed the framework agreement last year,” said Victor Doerksen, Alberta’s Minister of Innovation and Science. “Each of these proposed projects promises to enhance Alberta’s research and development capability and will help to make our province more competitive in the global economy.”

A memorandum of understanding for each project was signed in Palo Alto, California, by Dick Lampman, senior vice president of research at HP, and director of HP Labs, and Doerksen during the minister’s 2006 technology mission to California.

“HP has a tradition of collaborating with universities around the world to foster innovation and advance technology,” said Lampman. “We are looking forward to working with the Province of Alberta on these exciting projects.”

Data centre research under consideration includes developing tools to manage and automate the operation of computer facilities, test advanced computer programs that can aid in industry applications such as oil and gas exploration, and simplify user access to computing resources.

In addition to joint research with HP on advanced data centre operation, the proposed facility at the University of Calgary is intended to provide university researchers with the capability to perform leading-edge simulation and modeling more quickly. Potential benefits from such activities include more rapid discoveries and product development.

“Increasing our computer power is an important part of the University of Calgary’s plan to be a leader in the field of information technology and its applications,” said Dr. Dennis Salahub, Vice President of Research and International at the University of Calgary. “We look forward to working with HP on a wide spectrum of research: energy and environmental modeling, life sciences applications, as well as IT itself.”

The nanoscale research effort, which will involve the National Institute for Nanotechnology of the National Research Council (NRC), is envisioned to focus on the development of tiny sensors that could provide significant benefits in medical and environmental diagnostics. Nanoscale sensors could aid in diagnosing diseases such as cancer while the patient is still in the doctor’s office, instead of having to wait for results from a lab, decreasing time-to-treatment and increasing cost-effectiveness. Nanoscale sensors could also be useful in environmental diagnostics by aiding in the analysis of ground water and air quality. The proposed nanosensor research also includes the integration of nanomaterials into microsystems which could enable more time, energy and cost efficient nanoscale sensors.

“By bringing together NRC, university and industrial researchers, these proposed research efforts with HP highlight the collaborative focus at the National Institute for Nanotechnology,” said Dr. Nils Petersen, Director General of the National Institute for Nanotechnology. “This builds on NRC’s long record of successful partnerships with industrial research groups.”

The proposed videoconferencing work with the University of Alberta would combine virtual reality research conducted by Dr. Pierre Boulanger, iCORE industrial research chair at the University of Alberta, with research on desktop immersive videoconferencing underway at HP Labs in Palo Alto. The combination of these efforts promises to give conference participants a virtual 3D presence in video and the perception of a more natural and realistic interaction.

“This proposed work with HP will enhance the development and dissemination of innovative technologies,” said Dr. R. Gary Kachanoski, Vice President of Research at the University of Alberta. “It is another exciting step in building capacity in an area of significant importance in our province and beyond. We welcome this opportunity to continue the development of our relationship with HP through the support of excellence.”

Additional discussions are underway with the Banff New Media Center at the Banff Center and HP Labs Bristol, U.K, to bring together artists and researchers to develop advanced content for handheld computers using the HP Mediascape platform. Using GPS technology, handheld devices that have the ability to download content from satellites could provide mobile content services, for example, to participants taking a walking tour of a city.