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University of Bradford deploys HPC to aid research into preserving world’s heritage sites

University teams up with OCF to deploy high-performance computing environment to support efforts to create 3D representations of world heritage sites

The University of Bradford has deployed its first high-performance computing (HPC) environment to supports its work in the preservation of heritage sites of archaeological importance around the world.

The HPC setup will enable the university’s computer scientists and archaeology teams to collate hundreds of images supplied by those living locally or tourists to create accurate 3D representations of these sites and monuments for preservation purposes.

The work is part of the university’s Curious Travellers initiative, which is geared towards ensuring that, in the event of a natural disaster or instances of deliberate destruction, an accurate record of what these sites looked like is retained, without having to rely on artistic reconstructions to fill in the knowledge gaps.

Vincent Gaffney, professor at the University of Bradford’s School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, said HPC technology is having a transformative impact on the way archaeological work is undertaken.

“We are able to reconstruct heritage sites from hundreds of images recorded digitally,” he said. “Importantly, the project is more than just the 3D content. By using geospatial and archaeological data that describes the site within its landscape, its context is included, providing a lasting legacy that contributes to local historical environment records.

“Computing technology is not only broadening the scale at which archaeologists work, but also is making an unprecedented volume of extremely accurate data available for multinational analysis.”

The HPC environment is being managed and built by large-scale data analytics provider OCF, and combines Lenovo ThinkSystem servers running Intel Skylake processors with OCF’s own open-source software stack of data management, monitoring and scheduling tools.

The setup will be accessible to all university departments, with the university confirming that it is already being put to use by members of its bioinformatics teams to carry out complex chemistry-related computational calculations.

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“The University of Bradford’s commitment to using HPC technology to support the development of research is having a positive impact on the world,” said OCF managing director Julian Fielden.

“From biosciences and engineering to computer science, social sciences and heritage science, all these disciplines are moving rapidly as increased computational power becomes more readily available and enables vastly improved research capacity.”

John Bridgeman, pro vice-chancellor at the university, said its investment in HPC will ensure its researchers retain their world-leading status in their fields of expertise.

“We live and work in a world that is largely data-driven, and our state-of-the-art facilities will enable the university to continue to operate at the vanguard of data management and visualisation,” he said.

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