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Data-Mining Drives

You want to find that digital shot of your belly-flopping husband from last summer’s vacation, but you can’t remember where you filed it on your hard drive. What if, rather than making you open folder after folder, your hard drive acted more like a database, quickly serving up the file you want? That’s the idea behind a project in Mahadev Satyanarayanan’s Intel-sponsored lab at Carnegie Mellon University to create software for special processors inside hard drives. The software would speed searches by examining hard-drive data as they’re read and suppressing all the data that have no chance of fitting the search parameters before they reach a computer’s main processor. If assigned to look for a suspected terrorist in video surveillance data, for example, the system could block frames showing empty sidewalks. If intelligence officers, radiologists, astronomers, or other professionals who depend on data from images express interest in the group’s early simulations, then Intel could start working with them within a year or two to build specialized hard-drive software, and eventually hardware, Satyanarayanan says.

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