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Home > iSGTW 11 July 2007 > iSGTW Opinion - Grid: goldmine for entrepreneurs?


Opinion - Grid: goldmine for entrepreneurs?

The ability to search through millions of images to locate specific content. Now what would that be worth? And where else to get the computing power for such technology but the grid?
Image courtesy of Imense

Who still includes access to electricity as a competitive advantage in their business? I don't.

In his article ‘IT Doesn’t Matter’, published in the May 2003 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Nicholas Carr points out that such days are long gone, and he suggests IT is heading the same way.

As the availability of IT increases, and its cost decreases, it will becomes less a strategic advantage, and more an everyday commodity that anyone can buy.

The rapid development of virtualisation and distributed computing technologies, including grids, means that the paradigm shift predicted by Nicholas Carr could happen sooner rather than later.

But what does this mean for scientists keen to become entrepreneurs?

For big businesses, the grid value proposition is rather straightforward: grid technology provides cost savings through improved utilisation rates of corporate IT infrastructures.

For smaller entrepreneurs, grids mean access to vast computing power without the necessity of owning your own IT infrastructure. Can you imagine thousands of computers, patiently waiting to work on your jobs? Does this spark any creative ideas? Well, for many scientists, it does.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council supports collaborative projects between science and business, and grid computing is quickly becoming one of the hottest fields for collaborative projects.  

One idea came from a small company called Imense, who are tackling the problem of the growing backlog of un-annotated and unsearchable images on the Internet.

Startup company Imense plan to use grid technology to power their innovative image search tools, betting on the continued maturation of the grid market.
Image courtesy of Imense
The solution Imense developed is conceptually simple: a technology able to recognise a wide range of visual categories, such as grass, sky, sunset or beach, as well as to spot and interpret faces. This technology allows a user to search for images with specific visual content, just by entering a plain text query.

The computer power required to execute such a solution is immense. But like many entrepreneurs, Imense is already thinking far into the future.

Imense are working with Professor Andy Parker, director of the E-Science Centre, University of Cambridge, to adopt grid technology that will make indexing and searching millions of images possible.

By the time Imense reaches the market with its product, it expects to have access to computing resources on a ‘pay as you use’ basis, and to benefit from new capabilities provided by grid infrastructure.   

Inspired? Then let us know about your own grid-related business ideas.

- Alex Efimov, Knowledge Exchange Advisor, Science and Technology Facilities Council

The Imense project was organised by the STFC KITE Club with the help of EGEE and GridPP and is currently hosted on GridPP infrastructure.



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