The Hague, The Netherlands
The WAVE arrived at the Congress Center at the crack of dawn just as it was opening. It was immediately apparent that this would be different. It was. The EU is pouring billions of euros into ICT research. It is managed. It is bureaucratic. But there were examples on the exhibit area which highlighted the fruits of the investment. The WAVE does not normally see so many examples of creative work in one event.
This is no small event – 3,000 registered attendees and 180 exhibitors. Held once a year, this is where the EU showcases the results of the IST projects. But equally as important, it is where networking takes place. One of the key values of this is for the European Commission, as reflected in the DGs present here, to get feedback from industry and researchers on the direction the research efforts should take. This is particularly important as the planning for the next 4 year Framework Program has begun. Today, we are in FP6. There has been Euro 1.9B spent from 2003 – 2004 out of a total budget of Euro 3.8B. Over 2,500 proposals were received and 400 projects supported. There are over 6,500 individuals participating in these projects. FP7 will begin at the start of 2007.
The keynote was given by the President of Latvia, one of the new EU member states. Via a television link, she stressed the importance of the ITC sector as a means to lift the GDP of her country. This was the first IST meeting with the 10 new members of the EU.
As the WAVE observed in its coverage of the IST Wireless and Mobility conference, a key motivation behind the EU efforts in ICT is to remain competitive on a global scale. Europe sees itself as the leader in cellular technology with GSM but the recent success of Samsung against Nokia demonstrates that no market is stable. In fact, a theme over and over in the talks is the necessity for Europe to remain competitive and to adapt to meet the needs of the evolving market.
Frans de Bruine, Director, eEurope and IST Policies outline the early planning for FP7. At the same time he outlined some of the reasoning behind the ICT research program:
Frans described the strengths in Europe as being:
Some of the FP7 directions include:
Jose Luis Encarnacao of Darmstadt Technical University gave another view of the IST program. He also outlined the Grand Challenges. These include:
Harry Hendriks, CEO of Philips Electronics, outlined the factors which are changing the electronics industry. He was optimistic that Moore’s Law trend could continue but in the future this would be based on nanotechnology. Europe must have a leadership position in the technology and change to meet the increasingly competitive market.
In what is called “e-inclusion” HP showed how it is supporting e-learning in Limpopo, South Africa. They have the 441 multi-user desktop solution for the classroom. This uses Linux to support 4 students on one PC. There are over 70 applications loaded on this computer.
JC Burgelman of the Institute of the Prospective Technological Studies, opened the issue – some would like to see the research in Ambient Intelligence halted. As he said: since computers are commodities, why fund a commodity? In response, he provided a vigorous defense. One of the most interesting was a comparison with the Korean 8-3-9 program. This is built around 8 Services, 3 Infrastructures and 9 growth engines. Here is a summary:
JC was quite concerned in that there is considerable overlap with the Ambient Intelligence Vision. He observed that when the Korean’s go after a market they have been quite successful. Cited were:
Josef Lauter is coordinator of a project under the IST e-health 6th Framework called MyHeart. It is an Ambient Intelligence (AmI) project which began 10 months ago. The WAVE Report was very impressed. The mission is simple – fight cardio vascular disease by prevention and early diagnosis. The cost of CV disease in the US alone is $329B per year. The AmI use focuses on adjusting an individual’s activity level, improving sleep quality, reduction of stress and weight reduction. The project is vertically integrated with the use of wearable sensors, on-body electronics, user feedback and professional support. What is outstanding is the use of biomedical clothes. These provide convenience and an excellent user interface. The on body electronics are for sensing, analysis and store and forward. A demo was given during the presentation by Josef Lauter as he spoke. Superb. The level of intelligence in the analysis software and the user feedback was outstanding. As Josef stated this is but the beginning.
This project fits the Philips move into the market of Personal Health Care. The MyHeart effort is 45 months long, having started on 12/3/03. it is funded by the EU at the level of Euro 16m and a total funding of Euro 33m (latter assumes matching funds.) There are 27 partners on this research. One of the most interesting aspects of the project is its emphasis on self management by the individual who wears the biomedical clothes. This was shown quite effectively in the demo. When the user is active it monitors the level of activity against a norm. It keeps track of the activity over a period of time. The system not only monitors stress levels but provides images to reduce stress. It also monitors the quality of sleep. What is significant is the level of diagnosis that is included in the on-going measurements. Thus, the wearer is encouraged to take preventative or reactive measures on a long term basis. For example, one can track weight on an on-going basis and know the impacts of this. Further, with the details on stress levels one can take action to reduce stress.
Josef had two comments during the presentation.
What really impressed us about MyHeart is that it puts the responsibility for action on the person who needs it most. In addition, the level and quality of the feedback encourages action. This coupled with long term collection of body and activity data, creates a very powerful instrument for well being. This turns upside down many of our comments that ubiquitous computing should do work. In this case, the wearer of the biometric clothing is given an incentive to work. Excellent.
WearIT@Work is a project to use wearable computers in complex aeronautic maintenance. The value was shown in the presentation - technicians who have to maintain complex products including aircraft need to be hands free to do the work. They frequently need reference to extensive manuals which are 1,000s of pages to perform complex procedures. Needed are innovations at the worker level to improve the process and this effort is focused on wearable computing. The advantage is that a wearable computer is available everywhere, can be unobtrusive, is context sensitive and can be highly communicative. But in order to get worker acceptance it must support interaction on the task level and be integrated with the aircraft maintenance operation. The way in which this will be accomplished at the WearIT@Work project is through: user acceptable I/O devices, context sensitivity and platforms for both hardware and software. Further, multimodal content authoring software is needed and this will be done with SNOW. The project is in the early stages and no results were given.
In this session, the WAVE saw the application of advanced and compelling web services, interaction, collaboration and distance interaction. The “in phrase” is: CSCL – Computer Supported Collaboration Learning. But when it came down to the issue – does this improve the learning, the answer was much less clear. One individual from the audience was insistent it does not and a presenter said the measured results did not conclusively show the value of IT.
The logic is clear – technology should be able to help learning. The reality is less so. One point that is clear – the learning and teaching research community is another discipline with its own words, its own techniques and many views.
Four presentations were given in this session. They fall under the Kaleidoscope program. This is described as:
Barbara Wasson of the University of Bergen, Norway gave a presentation on Collaborative Knowledge Building as a Foundation for Organizing Learning Scenarios. She described the DoCTA project which was funded by the ITU Program under the Ministry of Education. This project has generated over 50 publications, supported 15 Masters dissertations and will graduate 3 Ph.D’s.
The tool used was genetikk to investigate the pedagogical design of ICT mediated collaborative learning environments. The focus of the research described here was Progressive Inquiry Learning. The assumption being that new knowledge is not simply assimilated but jointly constructed through solving problems and building mutual understanding. Two schools were used in this effort in Bergen, Norway and Oslo, Norway. The Didactic Design was on the ethical aspects of genetics. The assignments were focused writing, selecting questions, and composing scientific explanations on ethical questions. The major finding was disappointing:
It was stated that this is a problem in science and technical education. What is necessary is to engage the student in the deeper process of learning in these complex areas. But what is found is that the emphasis is on just getting the assignment done.
Ton de Jong of the University of Twente, the Netherlands, presented a paper “Collaborative Inquiry Learning in Areas of Science and Technology.” They used their Co-Lab for science learning. The metaphor used was of a city that had buildings, each of which reflected the subject matter to be learned. The buildings had a deep drill down. On the floors were Co-Lab rooms with theory, meeting, laboratory and Hall rooms. Each of these floors had an extensive web interface which corresponded to the floor/Lab and the learning intent. There were also Co-Labs which were actually remotely connected lab facilities. These labs included a mechanics lab, tank lab and desktop greenhouse. The conclusions stated that the students were engaged and the teachers need more time to get used to this approach. No results were presented on the effectiveness of the learning process.
Mike Sharples, University of Birmingham, UK, presented on Innovative Technologies for Collaborative Learning Environments. The focus of this effort is to support what is called new learning. That is learning which takes place all the time. This is learner-centered, individualized, collaborative, situated, ubiquitous and lifelong. The project is called MOBilearn. It is a 5th Framework IST project and has 24 partners. The purpose is to develop technology and services for mobile learning with a focus on learning outside of the classroom. One part of the project is Small Group Learning: Interactive Logbook. Its objective is to develop software for wirelessly connected pen tablet computers to enhance student team learning.
The EU has launched an ambitious effort to build ETP. These are in: Nanoelectornics, Mobile and Wireless Communications and Embedded Systems (ARTEMIS). Europe can organize such large scale efforts and the need, from a global competitive standpoint, is clear. But, their effectiveness remains to be determined.
The presenter for ARTEMIS was from ABB. Embedded processing can be seen as the precursor technology to Ambient Intelligence. It is clear that this ETP is well aware of the role that embedded processing technology can play.
The session “Free and Open-Source Software (OSS) in the Information Society” explored issues of the use of open source software. In spite of the bias in Europe to Open Source, the WAVE came away impressed with the tests and analysis being undertaken to objectively determine the value or lack thereof with Open Source. As the panel chairman said “We are moving beyond evangelical and anecdotal for OSS.” A major study on Open Source is due from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in Denmark. It has implemented 6 pilot projects where Open Source is used in 5 (one dropped out) and one with Windows. This was to be released at the event but is now several weeks away. It is likely to be carefully read in Europe.
Here are the high points of what the WAVE saw as most interesting.
These are small modules that detect the presence and level of light. There are linked by RF in a mesh network. Thus, the modules, which are stand alone, can be distributed over large areas and will form a self defined network to communicate to a central hub. The TinyOS is used. Applications are wide spread including some for farming.
The objectives of the research are to understand and enabling a compelling experience of presence but not limited to being there but extended to being in touch with remote or virtual surroundings.
This is a project to bring the touch interface to computers. A simple example was shown in the booth. They are using hapticons to denote emotion and the physical response using haptics and the individual. Work is done at TU/e but no web site is available.
Hard of hearing individuals need to see a face to read lips. Thus it is not possible to use the telephone. The Synface project is to allow hard of hearing individuals to use the telephone via an artificial which recreates lip movements on the other end of the phone line.
This project is research focused on a goal to apply biometrics European-wide for security applications. Shown at the booth was early work on fingerprint detection that assures there is a live finger on the fingerprint sensor. This is called a fake-resistant sensor. Other efforts are underway in other modalities.
The was a project to develop a robot, which is an autonomous vehicle that could be used by severely impaired children – speech and physical – from 4 to 10 years old. This allows the child to ride the vehicle, which looks like a small car, to move autonomously. There are 8 ultrasonic sensors and direct interfaces for control. This was tested with children for a period of 3 months and was well received.
The goal is simple: to realize a flexible display. The research areas to accomplish this include: LTPS and micro-cyrstalline silicon (microc-Si) on metal foils, testing of metal foils vs. plastic, organic TFT fabrication, development of reliability standards and market analysis.
Cognitive systems are an attempt to endow computer systems with cognitive facilities – to learn to adapt to weight alternative solutions and to develop strategies. Cognitive vision systems are intended to recognize and adapt to novel variations in the current visual environment. There are multiple projects under this effort:
PolyApply is the application of polymer electronics towards Ambient Intelligence. It is intended that PolyApply will lay the foundation for a ubiquitous microsystem which combines both communications and sensing. The intent is to create an extensive family of products from RFID tags to low cost communications devices with high capability.
Seen for the first time at IST were the ATRON robots developed at the AdapTronics Group at the University of Southern Denmark. These are small units about 5” in diameter that are capable of attaching two units by themselves. Thus, a network can be created. One robot can communicate with another. The WAVE discussed this robot in the booth and the design was very well done.
This is a robot which stands nearly as tall as a person. The purpose is to have a robot which has perceptual, representational, reasoning and learning capabilities. These are to be placed in human centered environments. It is felt that such cognitive robots will evolve and grow their capabilities in close interaction with humans.
Using Passive Millimeter Wave Imaging, QinetiQ was able to imaging individuals at a distance, without their knowledge, and detect the presence of hidden weapons. Impressive.
At VTT, the Technical Research Center of Finland, they have developed the EMFiT foil sensor. This is being manufactured by Emfit Corp. This is a sensor matrix and is being used in two applications on the Sensation project. These are a bed mattress and in seats in automobiles. The sensors can measure pulse rate, respiration rate and pressure.
This is an effort to develop an architecture needed for self-organizing and collaborative wireless sensor networks.
OCERA is focused on multiple efforts for real-time Linux. These include:
This is an effort to build ant robots which can closely cooperate as a swarm. This effort is focused on modeling swarm animals, tools to simulate up to 1,000 robots, development of cooperative algorithms and hardware development for the robots.
The Virtual Planet Explorer allows for the interactive 3D browsing of the Earth at any available resolution on PCs. V-Planet is the software that supports the preparation of geo-referenced datasets suited for real time processing. V-Planet can also interoperate with GIS and to display GIS data within a 3D universe.
The concept is surprisingly simple. A smart card that stores encrypted audio that can be transmitted over any voice channel. The user carries the smart card and a simple hand held reader. One inserts the smart card into the reader and a short audio track is played. The receiver then authenticates the audio and the individual carrying the card it authenticated. Security is such that a new audio sound is played every time the card is used. There is also a set of back end services in place that will allow anyone, including small business to use the platform.
FogScreen is a penetrable immaterial projection surface. It is made of dry fog using pure tap water and no chemicals. The fog feels dry and one can walk into the display. The display can be turned on and off in seconds. The image appears to float in the air. There is no frame around the display. An interactive option is available which turns the screen into a touch screen.
This is mouse which has two pads on the top of the mouse. There pads are an embedded tactile display. There are game possibilities but the targeted application is for blind and visually impaired. They are able to navigate a display surface from the cues on the pads. The WAVE tried this - it is quite impressive.
This has several components: a multiservice gateway, controllable appliances over power line and handheld devices that accepts voice input. The latter was a PDA shown in the booth. Using simple voice commands it was possible to control many appliances in the demo home. The targeted audience is the physically handicapped.
This is an IST project to make mobile network access totally open. It uses an OAN, Open Access Network, that is based on the following:
The project is focused on:
IST was unique among the many events attend by the WAVE. Europe has a different view of research, how it is conducted and how it is managed. Thus, the WAVE found a much broader horizon than normally encounter in events.
One should begin first by thinking of Europe, Inc. The heterogeneous collection of states, under the EC, is seeking to grow the GDP. The IST research effort is an investment in the future. The expectation is that innovation, when translated into products, infrastructures and services, is the engine that will help sustain the EU and its member countries. But this trivializes the substantive reason - it’s all about global competitiveness. It is clear that innovation is no longer the domain of North America, Europe and Japan. The concern is that to outsource innovation it is the beginning of the end of global competitiveness. Without being competitive, especially with the high cost of living in Europe and its high social costs, this loss implies that eventually there will be a lower per capita income.
The example cited most frequently at IST is ICT. Leadership in this sector equates to jobs and rising GDP. The eMobility presentation stated that the mobility market sector is responsible for 4m jobs now and is expected to grow to 10m by 2010. It was also interesting that they stated that the mobile and wireless market have had a greater economic impact than the Internet.
As one of the only Americans at this event, it was like being the only one riding in a police car under Code 3. Listening to these presentations, Code 3 said wake up, wake up. In the US, the WAVE has seen nothing of the comprehensiveness of these research efforts directed at specific goals. Yes, as even the EU presentation states, the US spends more overall on R&D but what stands out is that the EU has a focus to turn R&D into products that are sustainable to the economy. While in the US DARPA seeks to turn technology into military advantage, this is much more limited than sustaining economies with growth and jobs.
One of the quotes used during a presentation was from Alan Kay.
This certainly describes the efforts of the EC under IST.
In the ICT market there is one area that the EC is short– the computing side. In spite of many efforts dating back to the mainframe era, Europe has not been able to carve out a strong niche in I – information. It can be said that in enterprise software, Europe does have a strong position, but this is not a mass market in the same way as the PC. Certainly mobility has shown that Europe can lead. With this as backdrop, let us consider one effort that stood out at IST - Ambient Intelligence (AmI)
Quite simply Europe sees this as the future of computing and they seek to lead. One must be careful about dismissing the name or even the concept but one must look at the intent. If this, for example, is called embedded processors and it is the basis for the future use of computers, one would be much less likely to dismiss it. Yet, what Europe brings is its strength – a focus on the person. This user centricity was all over the event and in the research in Europe that the WAVE has been watching for the last year.
At the same time, one has to regard this also as the result of the driving forces coming from Philips. Even in booth conversations on MyHeart, the WAVE joked that it was a way for Philips to sell their mirror display and they just laughed.
One needs to look deeper at IST to see how important Ambient Intelligence is:
Our most recent report on Ambient Intelligence (WAVE 0503) spoke about this. Consider what is different about AmI.
As the WAVE learned at IST, look at AmI not as technology but a vision and mission. More importantly - it is the future of computing.