Emory Report

December 13, 1999

 Volume 52, No. 15

Van Houweling talks about benefits of 'the Internet of tomorrow'

In the not-so-distant future, your refrigerator will be connected to the Internet and will alert you when food inside is getting old; virtual family reunions will be held in family media rooms; and cars will help you avoid collisions. These and other future uses of the Internet that focus on human beings living and working together also have implications for higher education, according to Douglas Van Houweling, president and CEO of the University Corporation for the Advancement of Internet Development (UCAID).

Speaking on "Internet2: Implications for Our Future" Dec. 6 before an audience of 110, Van Houweling traced the development of the Internet as a research tool for a limited number of users to the Internet of today that has millions of users and provides access and delivery of information.

"The Internet of tomorrow will see people working together to solve problems; it will support human collaboration," said Van Houweling. "Tomorrow's Internet will have billions of users; there will be a convergence of today's applications and services with a real-time, rich media environment. New technologies will enable unanticipated applications and it will be used for mission-critical tasks."

Van Houweling heads the UCAID, which was formed to provide leadership and direction for advanced networking development within the university community. The Internet2 project is one of UCAID's activities in which 167 U.S. research universities are working to expand the capabilities of the Internet, enable a new generation of Internet applications and integrate these efforts with the current academic Internet services.

The Internet2 project is working on a number of initiatives to improve the domestic network, according to Van Houweling. "We are looking at the quality of service; that is, how to schedule and guarantee access to it." He noted that distributed storage and verification "middleware" are also being worked on as part of the Internet2 project. "Over the next five to 10 years, all networks-telephone, television and the Internet-will converge into one."

Van Houweling said the Internet of tommorow has several implications for higher education. "The planet is a place; distance disappears, and it will be as easy to have a meaningful interaction with someone in Japan as with a colleague next door," he said. "The curriculum will become global, and students and faculty can be assembled as needed. New institutional models will likely emerge; it may be that great educational institutions will become portals for learning experiences rather than campuses. And research opportunities will become ubiquitous."

In a question and answer session following his lecture, Provost Rebecca Chopp asked Van Houweling, "If students no longer need to come to campus ... how do you see universities trying to think through the implication of these radical changes?"

Van Houweling replied, "Focus on what you're doing for people. A place like Emory, for the young people, it's not so much about the classroom as it is about the campus and what happens while you're here. The question becomes, what are the other things that a university provides besides the classroom?

"Also, it will be difficult to balance the use of faculty in the university while at the same time encouraging them to knit themselves into the community at large. So the campus becomes a platform, as opposed to a cocoon."

-Jan Gleason

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