News: Data centre on show at Walt Disney World

A new exhibit at the Walt Disney World Epcot theme park in Florida is giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how information technology can address some of the world's most complex challenges.

Housed at the Innoventions interactive play pavilion, SmarterPlanet presents ways for technology to help tackle issues from reducing road traffic and city crime to improving food safety and local water supplies. At the heart of the exhibit is an IBM 'smart' data centre, showing the role that optimised computing plays in a sustainable technology-enabled world.

SmarterPlanet features interactive kiosks offering visitors a 'match game' that plays on the implications of creating more technologically-enabled societies. A video game called 'Runtime' from Walt Disney Imagineering turns players into personalised avatars that run, jump, and dance through a timeline depicting the history of computing, from Babbage's difference engine, through valves (or 'vacuum tubes'), chips and bits, to the Internet.

As well as providing processing power for the exhibit, the Smarter Data Center is donating unused computing resources ' 200 hours at time of writing - to the World Community Grid to help in various types of environmental, humanitarian and medical research. This project networks thousands of computers worldwide, establishing a large system with massive computational power equivalent to a supercomputer, IBM claims.

SmarterPlanet also serves as a venue for IBM's community outreach programmes, such as Engineers Week, a programme created by The National Engineers Week Foundation to reach out to current and future generations of engineering talent. The company was one of the original sponsors of Innoventions, which opened in 1994; the SmarterPlanet exhibit will run indefinitely.

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