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High tech partnership paying off

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The recently launched Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre at Curtin University is already generating dividends, with a successful trial last week of a 100Gb/s data link between a Square Kilometre Array precursor telescope, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), and the Curtin campus in Perth.

Once fully operational, the high speed, low cost link will demonstrate the feasibility of locating the central signal processing component of the SKA in a data centre well away from the remote Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory (MRO) site, located 1000km from Perth.

Professor Peter Hall, Director of the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy and Engineering Director of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), explained that the AARnet-Cisco 100Gb/s data link would allow data to be shipped to the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre over optical fibres without ‘regeneration’, meaning that once signals are converted to light at the MWA, they then travel as light all the way to Perth. Many such links would be used in parallel for the SKA, using already-installed optical fibre.

“In addition to incurring lower maintenance costs and using easily available, lower cost electrical power, locating the SKA signal processing in a population centre would mean much more flexibility in the design and use of observing instruments and better future-proofing in terms of instrument upgrades and extensions,” Professor Hall said.

“It also means less radio frequency interference on the radio-quiet Murchison site,” he said.

Professor Hall said the successful trial of the link, achieved with the strong support of AARNet and CSIRO collaborators, had demonstrated coherence of the data stream – meaning digital data packets sent from the MRO were arriving on time and in sync, in the same order as they were sent. With this fundamental requirement satisfied, work now centres on the development of new-generation computer-based software signal processing solutions for the MWA and, ultimately, the SKA.

Mr John N. Stewart, Cisco’s Senior Vice President and Chief Security and Trust Officer, said the successful trial demonstrated that the CIIC was already fulfilling its purpose of accelerating innovation in Australia’s agriculture, astronomy and resources sectors; and to a larger extent, big data.

Mr Stewart said that when the SKA telescope was finally complete, it would be the biggest Internet of Everything project in the world.

“The ability to push the boundaries of technology, to the extent that we can listen back to the beginning of time, is tremendously exciting, which is made possible due to our collaborative relationship with Curtin University and its partners,” Mr Stewart said.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Graeme Wright, said Curtin had played a major role in building computational science and data analytics capability in Western Australia over a number of years.

“As a key player in the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and the SKA project, Curtin has been at the forefront of pushing technology to the limit to help deliver leading international research in supercomputing and radio-astronomy,” Professor Wright said.

“With the recent establishment of the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre, Curtin and its partners have created the ideal ecosystem to help build on the expertise of radio-astronomers and apply these into a range of discipline areas such as the oil and gas industry, agriculture, health and smart and connected cities.

“The announcement today, that a 100Gb/s link between the MWA telescope in the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory and the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre at Curtin University has been successfully trialled, is a key step towards meeting these goals and demonstrates the importance of industry, government and university collaboration,” Professor Wright said.

Professor Wright said the partnership between Cisco, Woodside and Curtin was helping to build new relationships and understanding between industry and universities.

“The National Innovation and Science Agenda is a new way of thinking and Curtin University is playing a significant part,” Professor Wright said.

“We expect that this announcement will be one of many that the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre will be making in the future.”

The Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre (CIIC) partnership was announced in July 2015 and the building was completed in December 2015. It is a collaboration between founding partners Curtin University, Woodside, and CISCO. It includes a state-of-the-art laboratory, a technological collaboration area, and a dedicated space to show IoE in action. It brings together start-up companies, industry experts, developers, researchers and academics in an open collaboration environment to create a ‘connected community’ focused on cloud, analytics, cyber security and IoT network platforms. A second Cisco IoE Innovation Centre was recently announced in Sydney and will work closely with the WA Centre particularly in the agriculture domain.

ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia and supported by the Western Australian Government.

*Note- This release was edited on 8 April 2016 to include reference to the AARNet-Cisco Centre and additional slight wording changes were made.

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