Distributed September 21, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Janet Kerlin

Information Technology

Brown computer scientists receive grant to speed Internet use

A team of researchers led by Brown computer scientist Stanley Zdonik will search for a way to make using the Internet faster with a $3.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation. The research will focus on creating user “profiles” that would lead to the quick supply of customized information.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown computer scientist Stanley Zdonik will lead a team of researchers that will look for a way to make using the Internet faster by designing middleware – software that would enhance the interaction between a user and Web servers.

Zdonik and colleagues received a five-year, $3.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation. Brown is one of 41 institutions to receive funds under the new $90-million Information Technology Research initiative. The awards, which will spur fundamental research and innovative applications of information technology, are a step toward building on U.S. leadership in this area of growing importance to the economy.

The team’s research focuses on designing technology that would allow a person to create a profile of their information interests.

The researchers plan to design a profiling language, then create middleware techniques that would allow computer networks to keep track of someone’s online needs. For example, someone whose profile included “Boston Red Sox” could receive customized information fetched for them automatically, eliminating the need for searching and waiting for Web pages to load.

“Customized information services are going to become very much in demand,” Zdonik said.

The research team will be developing techniques that could be used in the design of middleware. Their results could apply to many generations or designs of specific middleware products.

Another goal of the research is to explore how user profiles might allow people to update the information they carry in their portable computers and cell phones. The team hopes to develop techniques that would allow someone to plug into an Ethernet socket to update the limited memory of a computing device. The user would receive updated e-mail and other information. The researchers hope that they will be able to make such “data recharging” on a portable device as simple as recharging the battery.

The research team includes Zdonik and Steven Reiss of Brown, Michael Franklin of the University of California at Berkeley, and Mitch Cherniak of Brandeis University.