ACTS 2000 +
ACTS, as the EU programme in Advanced Communications and Services, has been launched in 1995 but already the lead-time of policy and strategy making raises the questions as to the future of collaborative R&D in this important domain.
For this reason, the AMC, G28 and the Commission Services entered into a reflection on the future requirements and options for cooperative R&D on an EU and international level. This note represents the results of the reflections so far.
1.1 Starting point
- RACE I and II have prepared the ground and ACTS I will allow outstanding advances in communication technologies as well as in awareness of the potentialities and acceptability of advanced and broadband telecommunication services through a number of projects devoted to operational trials of services and applications.
- Meanwhile new functional and architectural concepts in communications will emerge possibly from closer interworking of the telecoms and IT communities, thereby emphasising new trends and posing new requirements for research and development.
- Key technologies which are currently under development will have matured by the year 2010, thereby requiring still considerable amount of R&D work both on the technologies themselves and on the consequent enabled applications and services after the end of the first phase of ACTS.
1.2 Trends characterising Advanced Communications and Services
- Ubiquitous services development
- Global market
- Rapid evolution of user requirements
- "Virtualization" of presence and goods (virtual enterprises, universities, libraries, banks, etc.)
- Convergence of telecommunications, information technology and media infrastructures. New services combining the three areas features.
- Evolution towards more integrated (at least interoperable) systems of broadband infrastructures and services.
- Increased distributed intelligence in the network and in the terminals.
- Concurrent presence of several actors that are active in provision, use, management and control of networks and services; fading boundaries between the various actors' roles.
- New approaches to manage complexity of the telecommunications (information) network and services.
- Need of high-level usability of services and applications, including the simplicity of user interface and security aspects.
- Need of high flexibility of services to adapt quickly to user requirements and to build up rapidly personalised solutions; customisation may take place at the user site and via third parties.
1.3 Implications for the Fifth Framework Programme
- the convergence of IT and Telecommunications at the Network Infrastructure level should be addressed with particular emphasis by the Specific Programme(s) dealing with Telecommunications;
- this Programme(s) should try to stimulate the progressive interplay between the customer premises and the network at the software (application) level;
- experimentation of novel architectures seeing the interaction of network intelligence with access intelligence should be fostered;
- the present testbeds should also be used to experiment the related development in the field;
- the calls shall foster the participation of both IT and Telecommunications Industries, both Network Operators - Service Providers and Manufacturers.
- The pull towards the increase of investment for software in the network infrastructure can be significant and effective only through the participation within the same research programme of the various players: Network Operators, TLC Vendors, IT Vendors, Systems and Applications' developers.
- Software aspects should be addressed by the Fifth Framework Programme much more heavily accounting for architectures that provide an interaction of the "access intelligence" with "network intelligence" thereby allowing a progressive interplay between the customer premises and the network at the software (application) level. However one should not focus on specificity of telecommunications software since this need does not exist as a separate entity in the future and might actually be counter-productive.
- Due to the growing reliance of the economy and social welfare on the network and of the number of actors accessing it at different access points and levels, the issue of security, integrity and, in general, dependability of networks and services should be given a more significant room than in the previous Programme.
- Trials of services and applications will continue to be of paramount importance. The increased flexibility and openness of the network will give rise to a number of niche markets where SMEs will play a major role. Hence the participation of SMEs is essential in the development and trials of services and applications closer to the market demand. The line dividing research/experimentation and marketable applications is very thin and there is clearly a risk of subsidising some business. A way might be to foster experimentation of services in social areas (e.g., education, health, etc.) that may be later used as spin-off to marketable products.
- Special measures will have to undertaken in order to create the conditions necessary for a wide exploitation of the initiative of the National Hosts, on the basis of the experience of the Fourth FP:
- create favourable conditions to finance the projects for using NHs
- encourage the NHs to be more open to usage trials involving SMEs, in order to improve their capacity to aggregate real users
- enhance the synergy with projects in other programmes and environments.
2. Focus for the Future: Anthropocentric Communication
The ultimate objective of Communication is to provide for the needs of people in whatever form. All other objectives can be subsumed by this global objective, though obviously, it translates into many forms depending on the conditions and context. But as a help to orient cooperative research on an international scale, this global objective can help to focus the attention on requirements and options.
2.1 Challenges for the next decade
There are many challenges ahead but in the present context three stand out prominently
1) Complexity and
As communications makes available more and more information the limiting factor becomes the ability of the person to perceive. 100ís of TV Channel do increase the choice, but at any one time a person will only watch one channel. A similar argument applies to the 1000ís of alternative services providers and the 100í000s of information products. The issue becomes that of enhancing the relevance, or in other words making sure that the communication provides the information wanted when, where and in the desired form. With the explosive growth of persons which might communicate (e.g. Internet community) or information services which compete with each other, this has no precise answer, but becomes inherently fuzzy. There are other factors which contribute to the challenge in complexity of advanced communications.
It is easily overlooked that we are already benefiting for some time from very cheap broadband services, TV. Telephony is interactive and selective but it is still several orders of magnitude more expensive. While spectacular progress has been achieved in transmission, processing and storing, there remain numerous techno-economic obstacles before interactive video can become as universally affordable as Telephony and TV are today. A determined technological effort in many domains remains to be undertaken to achieve this kind of objective. Similarly the mobility has proved its attractiveness, but it has still a high price and much remains to be done to overcome band-width constraints. In short cost-performance remains for the foreseeable future a key challenges. Besides a determined effort to improve cost/performance of technology in general re-usable technology, as a basis for volume related cost reductions, need to be addressed.
Communication is condemned to consensus because of its innate dependence on interworking on the level of the its use. With more actors getting involved in the value-chains making up communications applications, the need for consensus goes well beyond standards and includes technical solutions adapting to different application and regulatory environments. This constraint is particularly important for communication services and applications since the user wishes to roam world wide without loss of services. This contradicts the natural dispersive forces of competition and invocation. For this reason programmes such as RACE and now ACTS have made consensus formation in the domain of functional specifications a central objective, not to say their "raison d'etre".
For RACE operators, equipment vendors and research organisations formed a team of about 2000 technologists participating actively in consensus formation and the results contributed to the standardisation work of ETSI and others.
With ACTS R&D is carried out in the context of field trials which involves a much larger constituency, maybe as much as 10 times more persons are participating in the investigation of new services and applications. Naturally the consensus formation process used for 2000 and one suitable for 20í000 has to differ. For this reason a decentralisation has been implemented with the help of the Member States. A network of National Hosts has been set up to serve as ìwindowî to the field trials providing a powerful help for dialogue between the projects and the field trials sharing the objective of developing new services and ensuring their broad acceptance. In ACTS this is an essential feature, in what follows ACTS, it will remain essential.
Information and its ìvectorî, the communication, is often referred to as the nervous system of society. Being of such fundamental importance, the question of who has what control over communications and under which conditions is implicitly posed. It is a matter of policy making on a national and global scale, to set the rules and conditions for the deployment, operation and use of communications. However, the technical answers to the user demand needs to provide the means of actually implementing the policies as defined and evolving with them. For this reason, R&D needs to include considerations relating to the implementation of communications-related policies providing for appropriate control and management techniques, what is referred to as pre-regulatory R&D.
3. SCOPE OF ACTS II
Following the anthropocentric objective, the demand for technological advance can be derived or at least related to the demands of society at large. This presentation will help to explain the contribution of communications technology in general and of EU R&D cooperation in particular, to meeting present and future needs.
3.1 Environmental Communications Technologies
This category of issues relates to the socio-economically motivated changes in the perception of needs. With the emerging information society the impact and relationship with social, economic and political order will require attention translating, inter alia, into specific objectives or guidance for technological efforts.
3.1.1 Socio-economic environment
Need to reduce pressure on natural environment and more efficient use of natural resources resulting in use of communications to address the following issues;
- "Green Telecoms" help to achieve global sustainable development
- reduce need for transport
- reduce energy consumption in production, manufacturing, distribution, use and recycling
- manage the environment and natural assets
- telecom for regional development (within Europe and in other parts of the world)
- dependency on telecom services (out of coms out of job?)
- dependence of the re-engineering of businesses into flexible, decentralised, networked units on re-engineering of public service provision
3.1.2 Cultural environment
- cultural diversity and ìcultural privacyî
- education, arts and religious expression
- strengthening of family life and caring
- dependence on ìvalue chainsî and organisational innovation (ìFree" provision of local access to schools, universities, hospitals, museums, etc. can not be expected to suffice on its own.)
- participative entertainment and community life
3.1.3 Legislative/regulatory environment
- right and conditions of access/ control over access and interfaces
- rights of way/ frequency management/ space segments
- restrictions on use and its enforcement
- responsibility and sharing of responsibility between the actors involved in the value-chain of service provision,
- proof of ownership/ identity/ quality/ delivery service and information products
- rights to privacy, confidentiality and security
- Verification of truth of images (validity of traditional visual recordings, admissibility of Digital Images)
- conditions and liabilities in electronic payment/ trading
- electronic names (including personal numbers) / identities/ certification
- public order in the information society
3.2 Generic Services
This relates to the development of services which may in due course become universal services either because of their inherent characteristics or because they form essential elements of aggregate service offers.
- Low-cost Broadband Interactive Services
Broadcasting has achieved a level of cost-performance where advertising is sufficient to cover the cost of one-way delivery of broadband services including the whole value-chain from transmission to programming and content. Symmetric interactive services, such as telephony are in terms of cost-performance several orders of magnitude behind. Besides, other reasons, significant technological improvements are still required to reach the goal of wide-spread if not universal multi-media interactive services.
- Photonic communication
End-to-end optical connections to users, transparent to bit-rate, modulation scheme or data format, with the concept of "user-defined" bandwidth replacing "bandwidth-on-demand"- as in "dark fibres"
- Advanced Wireless Multimedia Applications
Future Mobile applications will be characterised by the high level of interactivity made available to the users. The type of applications will range from professional applications, with for instance, sales person willing to access product information (e.g. availability, stocks, prices, special discounts, time to deliver) and eventually issue an order in real time, while negotiating with a customer, to individuals, willing as an example, to automatically buy or sell shares when the rate goes below or above a given threshold. Capability to configure and even elaborate such types of applications depends heavily on the underlying network capabilities. Advanced Intelligent Networking features are necessary to support the service primitives and elements allowing such user interaction. Such IN features should also be able to support interactive video applications developed around the MPEG4 standard coding scheme which availability will coincide with the start of the 5th framework programme.
- Integrated Mobile/Navigation Systems
The GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) supported by EC/ESA/Eurocontrol will allow for applications and terminal developments combining features of mobile and positioning systems.
- Edutainment services (VRman for kids to play and learn)
Teaching, when well conceived, uses the natural play instincts of the learner. Taking into account the rapid diversification of things to know, new concepts of learning are emerging, e.g. life long education/training, learning-on-demand, virtual class-room, etc. Integrally this calls for a mixed approach of communications, life interaction, programming and specialised support materials, including remotely controlled equipment.
- 3D telepresence/ VR parlour
The present display technology limits communication paradigms essentially to a ìwindowî. Either VR or holographic displays could provide for a much enriched form of communication.
- Communication Service and Information Projects brokerage
Making available a multitude of communication services and information products calls for either technology or services assisting the user in choosing the appropriate communication.
- Broadcast relay in a web type environment
With the up-grade of networks to higher performance, audio-visual programmes can be transmitted.
- Payment services and billing services
With the multiplication of operators, services providers, information products, value-added providers and users working well beyond national borders, payment and billing becomes an increasingly demanding issue.
3.2.1 Specific Issues
- The user is at the centre of the telecommunication network; he needs to communicate and get information at the time and location wanted and in the desired form.
- This purpose will be served by three directions:
- improving the access facilities:
- more user-friendly
- more location independent
- more information in the time unit
- intelligence sharing between the network and the terminals. This may lead both to higher terminal intelligence (particularly for business customers) and lower terminal intelligence, using the network intelligence.
- improving the connection facilities:
- faster transit and routing to the proper address
- more intelligence in the networks, effective exploitation of a variety of networks to give rise to a network of networks
- more distributed architecture
- increased processing capabilities.
- optimising the interaction between the "access intelligence" and the "network intelligence":
- more interplay between the customer premises and the network at the software (application) level
- non specific telecommunication software
- basic flexible platforms at the customer location to interact efficiently with the evolving components of the network intelligence.
- Access to virtual remote environments
- The separation between "services" and "infrastructure", with multiple service providers and one or many network operators
- Teetherless Access to Telecom Services
- Users intra-service roaming
- User Interfaces
In certain cases it is still easier and quicker to flick through a book to find a fact than to use a computer.
- Stability and Consistency in User Interface
An anthropocentric approach means that the general public user should not be expected to have to waste time re-learning new systems every three years. Particularly true of old people who can't tackle this. Issue is: how to use stable approach to user interface whilst maintaining flexibility in system implementation
- Self-explanatory services
Whatever effort is made to standardise interfaces, the more responsive the service is to specific user requirements there remains the need for the system to provide guidance to the user. Simple ìhelpî menus have to evolve into ìintelligent assistanceî providing on the spot explanations and guidance appropriate for the specific user.
This regroups all issues which address the physical facilities and capabilities required to support transport, access, availability, manageability and cost-performance overall. It included all modes of transmission and their combination as well as hard-ware, soft-ware and org-ware solutions.
3.3.1 Network (main features of the future TLC network
- Ensemble of resources providing transport and intelligence (not necessarily routing).
- Break-up of the limits due to bandwidth (both at the access and transport level), distance and location (mobility).
- Open distributed processing environment from IT.
- Client-Server Architecture.
- Open platform for service creation and provision.
- Provision of added value to application form the network.
- The traditional software of IT will reach the core of the network.
- The traditional telecommunication software will expand to customer premises.
- low-cost infrastructures for addressable interactive broadband services
- all optical infrastructures
- universal affordable broadband access
- Global Wireless Information Infrastructure
- interworking of LANs, WANs and public networks
- Virtual Mobile Environment
- Mobile Satellite Services at Ka band, or Broadband Internet in outer Space
Broadband Wireless ATM
3.3.2 Specific Issues
- ultra-high bandwidth transmission systems
- ultra-high processing power in components and systems
- suitable architectures for very fast remote archiving and retrieval of data
- very efficient coding and rendering of audio-visual information
- Human interface: TV, PC or miniature portable head-set?
- Dimensional limitations of switches
- image manipulation
- long term stable digital storage information medium
- Optical switching cores for Terabit capacity ATM switches
- Optical switches and routers
- optical components/modules / ultra-fast optical logic and signal processing
- Components for the optical wavelength dimension (WDM)- filters, sources, demultiplexers/ dispersion-controlling components for transmission in the non-linear regime
- fibres and components for the "last 100 metres"
- Supraconductivity Wireless Equipment
- new methods for fibre installation
- radio-over-fibre, as a solution to decreasing cell sizes at higher frequencies
- Syntax oriented image coding
Relates to issues of basic principles of constructing and engineering of communications spaces to meet collective, group and individual needs. It has to reflect state-of-the-art, quality and operating conditions applicable to a given context and environment.
- Architecture for heterogeneous networks and services
- Network architecture for fuzzy configuration management
- Network topologies and dimensions (number of nodes and link capacities)
- Global mobile broadband access
- Specialisation versus Globalisation of architectural frameworks
- Economic Scalability of Services
Ability to access information services using really cheap infrastructure and terminal equipment. The same services to be available over POTS, albeit with reduced quality and facilities
- interactions between the optical level, the SDH level, the ATM level and higher service levels?
- Trade-off between distribution and storage
- Circuit and/or packet switched networks?
- Network granularity- a key issue
Within the constraints of sound architectural principles the communications design provides the adaptation in time, space and presentation to create an attractive communication space.
- software controlled wireless equipment
Current progress in DSP will open novel opportunities (beyond the year 2000) for the cost/effective deployment of a new generation of intelligent (software controlled) base stations and terminal equipment. The key issue to be considered is the development of open architecture standards for high performance, real time digital signal processing of wide band heterogeneous wireless signals. Such a development will permit a much wider range of interoperable hardware and software components and subsystems thereby ensuring a very flexible multiband/multimode "seamless" wireless multimedia communications.
- multimedia intelligent interfaces (computer face/voice recognition)
- "React to Request"
Currently accessing telecommunication resources requires to type, or punch, or click pieces of hardware. Allow this access by, for example, blinking, talking, or just waving.
Terminal devices to be surgically implanted, or worn as glasses, watch, hearing aid, glove etc.
Direct interface to human nervous system, bypassing or replacing the normal senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. Overcomes deafness, blindness and physically impairment, and provides true personal mobility.
With the increase in choice of infrastructures, services, presentation and content provisions for management are required both for ensuring a fair return on service as well an open service provision essential for fair competition.
- Management of the communication space
In future integrated fixed/mobile networks, users will wish to be provided with a virtual mobile (home/office) environment ensuring service portability across a range of different private/public networks. Some of the key issues in this context are; 1) the requirement for a standardised set of resource servers which are universally accessible from client processes, 2) the requirement for the development of emulators that facilitate migration and inter-regional world-wide operability, 3) the need for the development of the required control logic elements that enable system execution, 4) the requirements for secure control of access to resources and inter-process communication across distinct network boundaries.
- Intelligent agents
Will we evolve towards an agent-based telecommunications environment? Will these agents be "personal agents" located in specific network points or will they become "mobile" to perform task in remote network parts?
- Cross domain management
What needs to be added to interfaces/protocols to ensure the technology does not prevent enterprise policies to be addressed when crossing domains (ownership, regulatory,...)?
- Cross technology management
How to ensure the expected/negotiated quality of service when multiple appearances of different/same technologies are involved within the communications space? What fundamentally new user-service interfaces need to be developed to cope with the different terminal technology?
- Neural Network based Algorithms for ATM Call Admission and Control
Acceptance of traffic in ATM networks heavily depends on the statistics of the offered traffic. Simplistic modelling based on Markovian distribution and exponential call duration do not apply in complex networks such as ATM networks. Neural networks algorithms do provide tools to learn about traffic statistics and consequently, to derive in quasi real time an optimal model for characterisation of traffic statistics. Such model does in turn allow for optimal tuning of call admission/call control policies in quasi real time.
- Integrated Net Management Procedures for Satellite and Terrestrial Networks
Satellite net. management systems should be integrated with terrestrial mgt systems in order provide a global management facility. Some work on this topic already started in AT&T.
- Resource Management and Optimisation
- Spectral efficiency Optimisation
- Network control and management: control by users or central management?
- self-managing networks
- technology hardware and service software
- Communications related Information Management
How to ensure that the pedigree of information is well understood.
- Integrated management of many different technologies in the network
Anthropocentric communications implies the ability to communicate to achieve perception. This relates to the technical issues related to provide for perceptive differentiation.
- Perception of personal communication space
How to distinguish reality from virtual reality, or fact from deliberate falsehood. How to retain essential truths, when Governments and commercial organisations distort information dissemination to their own advantage.
How to determine / preserve information quality. Audit Chain techniques necessary to trace and validate the reliability of original sources used to compile any given information, and to assess whether or not it is complete and well balanced in its presentation.
- Network Services Self Learning Navigation Tools
Navigation tools filtering information to users according to the topics most frequently accessed by users.
- Intelligent terminals and session management
The ideal communication approaches the daily experience of human dialogue. The communications space needs to be able to approach this and may need to go as far as sensing the mood of the recipient before choosing the optimal way to establish communication.
- Intrusion management ("Keep Quiet")
Flexible ways to allow people to describe what kind of communication they want to enter into and under what conditions. Assuming everyone will be tethered with communications links, allow people to stay off the hook.
- How can multi-media telephony be made less disruptive/intrusive than traditional telephony, without falling back into a "multi-media mail" model?