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'Doomsday Vault' Gets a Digital Twin

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April 2, 2017

Now open on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean is an archive for the world's data.

The Arctic World Archive sits alongside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a frozen-storage facility built in 2008 to house the world's most important crop seeds. The idea of the seed vault is that it will be opened only after a global catastrophe. The popular nickname is the "doomsday vault."

Both heavily fortified vaults are run by the Norwegian company Piql. Norway owns the island, named Svalbard.

The idea of the data archive is that governments and scientific institutions around the world send in digital data that they wouldn't want to lose in the case of a natural or manmade disaster on a global scale. The vaults' owners will then preserve the data using an analog storage technique: photosensitive film stored in secure boxes. The company says that such a preservation approach would avoid the possibility of computer hacking, since the digital data would no longer be in digital form.

Already, the National Archives of both Brazil and Mexico have sent digital data to the Arctic World Archive using a secure data transfer system. Piql says that it has tested its multilayered photosensitive film extensively and that any data stored on the film should last at least 500 years.

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