The Integrated Multimedia Project (IMMP) primarily studies the integration of interactive multimedia services and system architectures addressing both residential and business users and focusing on the overlaps and synergy between the two. The main focus is on investigating and using IP/ATM connections and using applications relevant to the business sector. The evolution towards new multimedia applications will take place in a step by step fashion with successful services developed only after extensive end-user evaluations. This process will be followed in the project emphasising end-user trials and the feedback from them. It is necessary for IMMP to conduct focused trials with selected services to understand the key issues (technical, human and commercial) which will affect the successful deployment and end user acceptance of such services. Of particular relevance will be common new services that can be utilised in both business and residential areas.
Trials have started in the UK and Finland. In the UK educational applications are addressed involving several schools. In Finland high speed Internet access for residential users using the existing CATV infrastructure is being offered. These trials are using cable modems in the access network - set-top boxes will be used in the future. The interconnection of these trials using the JAMES ATM network is also planned.
IMMP participated in the relevant standardisation bodies namely DVB, DAVIC, IEEE 802.14 and ISO working group dealing with MHEG. Work is on-going in this area.
Based on the concepts described in the deliverables, platforms will be developed which, in the long term, will enable third party application developers to easily apply their creative skills to provide new multimedia services to end users.
The activities in IMMP are primarily based on the grounds of DAVIC and the ATM Forum as well as on IETF, TINA, ITU-T, ISO and ETSI. IMMP will continue to actively participate in these standardisation bodies through partner memberships.
IMMP will provide added value in the understanding of the converging residential and business services and how they can be effectively provided to customers with a positive outcome.
Similarly a greater understanding and competence will be gained within the European Community of the implications (technical, commercial and social) of providing end-to-end systems and interactive multimedia services to user communities.
In achieving its objectives and supporting the requirements of the ACTS programme, the project:
o Defines a general system architecture and develops a system architecture using IP/ATM connections. This architecture can be used in existing networks whether or not end-to-end ATM connections are available.
o Develops an MHEG-5 based multimedia middleware which comprises MHEG-5 clients, an authoring tool and an HTML-MHEG converter as well as the protocols to access the corresponding servers.
o Develops a number of multimedia applications on top of this middleware.
o Studies business and residential multimedia environments.
o Demonstrates and evaluates the feasibility of multimedia services within one operator environment and across several operator and country boundaries.
o Evaluates and tests end-user requirements and needs and measures the acceptance of services and applications.
o Measures and studies the economic and social impact, and develops options (technical and/or otherwise) to minimise any negative effects.
Considering the networks used in IMMP, the primary core network infrastructure is based on ATM. In the access networks IMMP is using IP overlay on cable modems, ATM ADSL modems and naturally Ethernet.
Summary of Trials
The project will develop an international trial network, utilising multiple existing access networks and ATM switching, on which experiments with integrated multimedia services can be made. The network will ultimately be connected to European ATM networks through the National Hosts. It will allow both local residential users and business users to access broadband multimedia services.
Applications which have been trialed during the first year are tele-education and video-conferencing with some multimedia retrieval. Basic WWW access and e-mail are provided as well. During the second year, the trialed applications have been extended with CSCW and more advanced tele-education applications via IP/ATM, additional library services, multimedia advertising and weather forecasting. Finally during the third year, new interactive multimedia retrieval services including electronic commerce will be included. There will be a general extension of the trials to larger user groups following the experiences gained in the first two years.
The user communities which will be addressed by IMMP include several schools, university campus areas, local authority sites (community sites such as libraries and community centres), some major business sites, a travel agency, a public telecom exhibition gallery, and SMEs as well as residential customers.
User trials will be organised in two operator domains by the operator partners. These activities are co-ordinated and analysed within the user trials WP. The end-user trials that are intended to take place within IMMP are summarised below in a table. The aim of the trials is to use IP/ATM connections and apply enhanced multimedia solutions. In the final project year, the applications will be consistent with the user needs (as a result of feedback from the trials); the number of users in the trials is further extended; the true potential of ATM is more profoundly employed. It is emphasised that many of the trials are closely linked with other on-going or planned activities for running user trials in both the UK and Finland.
Multimedia applications and services will be, in the long term, stimulated by society demanding new ways to interact, behave and express ideas. The ultimate unification of residential and business applications requires a service architecture based on media integration, separation of applications software from the underlying transport technologies, and common tools and guidelines for constructing applications. It is noted, that the deployment of end-to-end ATM for the trials depends on the commercial products and general market development since IMMP itself does not develop ATM transmission technologies.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts