Research group uses Hawaiki to send details of New Zealand brains to US

22 October 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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New Zealand’s scientific research network has started to use the new Hawaiki cable to transmit high-resolution brain scans to a US university.

The network, REANNZ, is using Hawaiki, the subsea cable that went into operation in July, to transfer hundreds of encrypted MRI brain scans, comprising millions of data slices, to Duke University in the US for analysis. Hawaiki links New Zealand to Australia, the US and a number of Pacific islands. 

“This neuroimaging collaboration with Duke was made so much easier and seamless with REANNZ’s network and this new capability,” said Dr Sandhya Ramrakha of the University of Otago. “Our collaborators at Duke can check the data in real time.” In the last month alone, Duke has made around 37 million file transfer operations during the daily data synchronisation processes.

REANNZ has an anchor tenancy on the Hawaiki Cable on behalf of New Zealand’s research community, worth NZ$65 million ($43 million) over 25 years. This includes NZ$15 million contributed by government to support the second cable entrant to New Zealand.

The Otago study is part of a 45-year-long project to follow the development of 1,000 people from birth.

Nicole Ferguson, CEO of REANNZ, said: “We are proud that REANNZ members, including the University of Otago, are among the first to benefit from this high-speed connection on one of the newest and most advanced submarine internet cables in the world.”

Researchers in New Zealand “have direct connectivity across 15,000km to the US, which puts them on a par with their global peers”, she said. “Using the Hawaiki Cable capacity, researchers have a stepping stone to over 2,000 universities and research institutes in America, and to a further 17,200 additional locations around the world.”

Ferguson added: “We are geared to manage big, bursty, complex research traffic and move huge datasets – involving hundreds of gigabytes, terabytes and petabytes – between multiple people, in multiple institutions, in multiple places around the world.”