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UK project aims to record an entire life in a digital format

UK project aims to record an entire life in a digital format

The ability to log a record of our entire lives in digital format, and include senses such as visual, audio and even smell, is one of a number of 'Grand Challenges' identified by a coalition of IT and scientific bodies.

Sponsored by the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC), and backed by the British Computer Society (BCS), the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC), IET and the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC), the Grand Challenges project addresses some of the main environmental, social and economic scenarios facing society in the future, and how science and IT could be used to address these.

The idea behind the nine "Challenges" is to pursue goals that have been identified as being possible, but will take one or two decades to arrive.

One such challenge is to map in computational terms the external and internal functions of a fully-grown plant, with the objective to help developing countries understand the pressing issue of crop failure.

Another challenge is to bring the past to life, virtually, to expose the circumstances and motivation of historical figures. A third challenge is to fully utilise the digital economy to help the UK's competitiveness in the face of powerful economies around the globe.

Ensuring that the millions of mobile and other devices are designed for the benefit of society and the economy, and ultimately, improving people's quality of life, is another aim.

Professor Dame Wendy Hall, co-editor of the report Grand Challenges in Computing Research 2008 , and past president of the BCS, said: "Technology is all around us, and increasingly underpins everyday life, but what many people still have to fully appreciate is the role technology will have in the future, combating some of the biggest challenges facing us as a society."

"IT in the future, with its effect on our infrastructure, food, climate and personal lives will have as great an impact on the way we live as the Industrial Revolution did towards the end of the nineteenth century."

The project was started in 2004, and three Grand Challenges in Computing Research conferences have been held since then to monitor progress, add or modify goals.

Hall continued: "If we think technology has changed our lives so far - we have seen nothing yet compared with what's in store, and youngsters thinking about what sort of career they want as adults could choose to be part of some of the greatest changes known to society for more than 200 years."

Read more for a full list of the grand challenges.

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