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BBC Horizon programme on FireGrid

Next Tuesday, April 24th, the BBC will be showing an episode of Horizon all about the FireGrid project. The vision behind FireGrid is that we can use the grid and HPC computing to model the spread of fire in buildings, to improve building design, firefighters' training and actual response in emergencies.

This is one of a number of grid projects looking at the use of real-time modelling to improve emergency response. Others are focussing on floods, earthquakes or the release of noxious substances into the atmosphere. In each case, the idea is to use lots of sensors to provide input to complex HPC models, which in turn provide forecasts to an emergency response control room.

There are many technical issues that need to be solved before such systems can be deployed live. We don't yet know the best way to guide simulations as new sensor input becomes available. We need better ways of allocating priority jobs to grid resources - it's clear that a traditional queue system won't give the response we need. The models themselves need to be adapted to work in this new computational environment. And of course there are security issues to consider. But this is interesting research with great potential benefit.

You can find more details about the BBC programme at


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