On 13-14 January, the leading lights of the software and software services community in Europe gathered in Brussels at the SSOKU09 event to discuss the trends and future of the sector. The event was organised by the Challengers project, created to help the grid community, and the 3S group which is behind the drafting of the White Paper for R&D and industry in the field of service and software architectures, infrastructures and engineering. Indeed, the White Paper took centre stage during several sessions of the two-day event in Brussels.
Jesus Villasante, head of the Software and Services Architecture and Infrastructure Unit at the European Commission, elaborated on future calls and European Union activities in this area, in particular the “future internet” which is also an upcoming ICT Results theme. He said that this is an area of growing importance because it is a function of what we do in society.
The future internet can't be done without software services, he believes, and among the driving forces are better broadband and a move towards an "internet of things" where machines understand each other better. He mentioned the notion of "3D internet" providing interaction and connectivity to address real-world challenges and opportunities, and the "internet of services" underpinning changing "digital lifestyles".
Villsante spoke of the visions and challenges of the future internet and that we need to "revisit our thinking of what really is 'tradeable' in the virtual world". He mentioned the "platform of things" as the basis of interconnected objects, from sensors and actuators to new interfaces and displays. The environment and green data centres are something to keep an eye on, he suggested, and the democratisation of high-performance computing, such as cloud computing, will usher in new business models, new devices and all new ways of harnessing these powerful platforms.
Buzzword du jour
Other speakers of note on day one of this recent two-day event in Brussels were Victor Benjamins of Telefonica R&D in Spain and Paul Strong of eBay.
Benjamins predicted a growing convergence of real with online worlds and demonstrated a prototype digital “blind stick” with built-in intelligence (using Bluetooth, cameras and the gambit of new digital wizardry) to guide a visually impaired man around a busy city. He focused on the need to build leadership and take the necessary risks to generate innovation in Europe.
He lamented what he perceived as lacklustre IPR in Europe. "Too many examples of good technology work done in Europe – like Skype, the WWW and MP3 – are capitalised on in the USA," he said. "And there is not enough effort to [patent] protect the work.”
Paul Strong had a lot to say in very little time about the pace of change on the internet. Just to keep ahead of the curve, his firm’s notion of a traditional R&D cycle is in the months rather than years timeframe, he revealed.
Strong spoke about cloud computing and admitted it was the "buzzword du jour" but said, from a technology point of view, "it is evolution" and for business, "its more like revolution".
The idea of outsourcing stuff you are not really good at is not new, but it really works for cloud computing, he asserted.
The idea being to outsource the heavy lifting to the network, instead of the grid, because "it's cheap, simple, ubiquitous, opaque and easier to bill.”
“If users start having to think about it, you're doing it wrong," he warned. The cloud is a bit like "Outsourcing 2.0 – it's flexible and agile, all for very good reasons."
On 22 January, ICT Results was also on hand in Budapest to meet hundreds of potential EU ICT research project partners at the ICT Proposers Day. A high level of enthusiasm was noted, especially from countries in the east of Europe.
The delegates were pleased to learn that a service like ICT Results was available to help them reach out to a wider audience when the time comes to publicise their findings or report on newsworthy goings on in the consortium.
Several professional communications firms and consultancies introduced themselves, explaining their involvement – past and future – in consortia to internalise the important role of communicating a project’s results and activities.
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