Foellinger Auditorium on the University of Illinois campus at Urbana-Champaign. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Illinois Uses Supercomputer to Solve State Problems

The University of Illinois’ supercomputer program is working to secure state-collected data and organize information in order to find solutions to state problems.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is partnering with the state to build new ways to protect and categorize individuals’ data. The state collects data on health, business licenses, and credit card information, which will be analyzed to reduce problems such as traffic congestion and repeat offenders in the prison system.

In the first phase of the partnership, NCSA will work with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) to safeguard citizen data.

“A partnership between DoIT and NCSA will bring great benefits to Illinois businesses and citizens in the area of cybersecurity,” said Kirk Lonbom, DoIT’s chief information security officer. “The threat posed by cyberattackers grows exponentially by the day and collaborations such as these accelerate the pace of cybersecurity progress.”

The NCSA plans to secure collected data, protect critical infrastructure systems, respond to threats, and provide for the integrity of their information systems.

“NCSA’s Cybersecurity Division brings expertise in several areas to help the state with their strategic goals,” said Bill Gropp, NCSA’s acting director.

After the data is secured, the NCSA and the state will decide how to organize the data in order to improve the process of curation and usability. The NCSA plans to look into how the location of certain projects and local culture affect the data to develop solutions.

“We expect to learn lots! Especially things we aren’t expecting,” Gropp said. “Think of this as a step toward customized services for the citizens and visitors to the state. But the most exciting outcomes are the ones that you don’t expect; we hope to make it easier not just for the state but for the public to explore public data and innovate.”

Illinois launched its smart state initiatives in 2016. The state hosted workshops in April and December for private sector and government leaders to discuss how smart state projects will improve government efficiency, access to services, and promote the growth of business.

“Illinois is nationally recognized as the first U.S. state to have a vision and road map for becoming a smarter state,” said state CIO Hardik Bhatt. “The goal is to use technology, Internet of Things, analytics, and cybersecurity to improve operational efficiency and find new and more cost-effective ways to serve our customers.”

The NCSA was established in 1986 as one of the of the National Science Foundation’s Supercomputer Centers Programs. NCSA is funded by the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, the National Science Foundation, and grants from other Federal agencies. The center provides resources on computing, software, data, networking, and cybersecurity to scientists and academics across the country.

The NCSA’s goals to accomplish by 2020 include working with government agencies to help the nation’s research opportunities and use data to address complex problems. This partnership with the state of Illinois could tackle issues in health care, the prison system, and the roadway system.

“At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science, industry, and society,” said Gropp. “We are excited about leveraging these resources to modernize infrastructure in order to better serve the citizens of Illinois and uplift the state’s economy.”

 

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