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Feature Stories - Points north: the future on display in Lithuania (part II)

Read this article in Lithuanian here

More than 4000 researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs from the field of 'Information and communications technologies' (ICT) and young people are making their way to Lithuania for the ICT 2013 event, taking place in Vilnius from 6 to 8 November. In the first part of this article , we looked at some of the EU-funded ICT research being exhibited in Vilnius at ICT 2013 under the themes 'Digitally empowered citizens' and 'Smart and sustainable cities for 2020+'. In this second part we will look at the projects exhibiting under the three remaining themes: 'Industry and business for tomorrow', 'Intelligent connecting intelligence' and 'Culture, science and creativity'. If you want to find out how to participate, or learn more about the future of cloud computing, broadband, ICT infrastructures, e-Skills, cyber-security and much more, then this is the place to watch.
Feature Stories - Points north: the future on display in Lithuania (part II)
As well as the Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, and the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, the conference will feature top ICT professionals from industry, academia and research. Speakers will address three thematic plenaries and three parallel sessions focusing on different themes of ICT research: 'ICT for excellent science', 'ICT for industrial leadership' and 'ICT for societal challenges'. A special focus will be on 'Digital Futures' - a journey into the future, and the policy challenges of the 2050s.

The exhibition will link today's research and innovation with visions for the future. More than 180 exhibits will cover a diverse set of research results and products, ranging from cars and advanced robots to very small components, software, new business or new services. As well as an art exhibit, the exhibition will include two special villages: the European Commission village will provide information on the Digital Agenda, Horizon 2020 and other EU-ICT related topics, while the Lithuanian village will showcase local successes.

Within each of the five themes - 'Digitally empowered citizens', 'Smart and sustainable cities for 2020+', 'Industry and business for tomorrow', 'Intelligent connecting intelligence', and 'Culture, science and creativity' - the visitor will be guided through the different stages and types of ICT innovation, from very advanced research (Future Emerging Technology) and application developments to innovative products just entering the market. There will be live demonstration of results, and visually attractive and interactive applications.

Industry and business for tomorrow

ICT obviously has a huge contribution to make to the competitiveness of European industry, so this theme covers 'ICT for industry' as well as the 'ICT industry' itself. Topics include manufacturing, new ways of working and new business applications - complemented by the financial sector, venture capitalists, business angels and crowd-funding initiatives.

Clearly one of the most important factors for Europe's future economic competitiveness and growth will be new industries, based on high-tech and the latest scientific breakthroughs. The ISENSE (1) project has been working to turn the latest developments in ultra-cold atom science into practical 'quantum' technology - resulting in highly sensitive sensor equipment based on manipulation and the monitoring of just a few atoms.

At extremely low temperatures, quantum mechanics rules the world and atoms are better understood as waves than as particles. Since each atom is identical, and we can detect changes in the waves through interference, they hold great potential for use in ultra-sensitive sensors. In future, we will need such sensors to measure Arctic-ice thickness, locate mineral or oil resources, and study ocean currents or volcanic eruptions.

The ISENSE project is led by the UK's University of Birmingham and funded under the FP7 budget line for 'Future and emerging technologies' (FETs) - specifically targeting high-risk high-impact projects based on breakthroughs in science or technology.

Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1997 and 2001 for the developments that have led to the exciting new field of ultra-cold atoms. But this does not mean the project's goals or results are abstract. At ICT 2013, the team will demonstrate their portable atom-based gravity sensor - which compares well with bulky laboratory versions - and will discuss its applications in climate research, sustainable cities and oil and mineral exploration.

In another project working on highly sensitive, portable high-tech equipment - a key sector for European industry, especially for medical, pharmaceutical and environmental applications - the LABONFOIL (2) team set out to develop ultra-low-cost 'laboratories on chips' without compromising the devices' speed, sensitivity or simplicity of use. The project, which ended in February 2013, will bring four prototypes of their technology to the event.

The new devices consist of a lab-on-a-chip (LOC) embedded in a smartcard or a skin patch - creating a powerful diagnostic device that can display its test results using a smartphone. The device can detect very small quantities or concentrations of important tracer biomolecules, such as DNA or RNA. And they have already been tailored to three relevant applications: detecting algae so as to measure CO2 absorption by the sea (and thus help predict future climate changes); testing for salmonella in farms and slaughterhouses; and monitoring patients for colorectal cancer or drug use.

Several other FP7 projects that have already been covered in previous ICT Feature articles will also be exhibiting under this theme at ICT2013. GRAPHENE has seen a scientific explosion since ground-breaking experiments on the novel material less than 10 years ago, recognised by a Nobel Prize for Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester. Graphene's unique combination of superior properties makes it a material with exciting potential for a wide range of fields. Meanwhile, PRACE will showcase its globally competitive 'High-performance computing' (HPC) ecosystem, and how it helps pan-European industrial competiveness.

Intelligence connecting intelligence

Focusing on networking, interfacing and integration (as well as international cooperation), this area will cover the 'Future Internet', new ways of 'Connecting and using data' - including use of the cloud and big data - and new approaches to 'Interfacing' (such as the Internet of Things, Machine-to-machine communication and human-ICT interaction).

I-SEARCH (3) set out to develop the first search engine able to handle specific types of multimedia (text, 2D images, sketches, video, 3D objects, audio and a combination of the above) and multimodal content (gestures, face expressions and eye movements) along with real-world information (GPS, temperature, time, weather sensors or RFID objects).

Having ended in December 2012, the project has produced a unified framework for multimedia and multimodal content indexing, sharing, search and retrieval. The innovative technologies and ideas introduced by I-SEARCH could potentially lead to advantages for many European industries and citizens by enlarging the market for digital services, knowledge sharing, content enjoyment and 3D-content distribution.

By developing a future internet format (RUCoD standard), and an app that supports a variety of user devices (PCs, tablets and smartphones), the project team have been able to demonstrate searches for images and 3D objects (visual data) by using 'multiple modality' queries - even by sketching out the type of image you are looking for by hand! Further evidence that full convergence of technologies is definitely becoming a reality!

As well as the wealth of content available, we will all have to get used to being surrounded by 'Pervasive systems'. They enable us to seamlessly interact with a range of devices, networks and services in our vicinity. Until now, their focus has been on the individual rather than on communities of users, but this has neglected the important role of socialising with our fellow humans!

The SOCIETIES (4) project has developed Community Networking Zones - which create dynamic networks of users in a conference context - as well as 'Crowd-tasking' services - which leverage communities and technology to help promote specific business initiatives. Other applications to be demonstrated include Privacy Assessment - which shows how services utilise users' private information, and how this is protected - and 'Micro-agreements' - a sort of small-scale, peer-to-peer 'Service-level agreement' (SLA).

Nowadays, the growth of online content, the access to a range of networks, and the ever-growing scale of social interaction via internet technologies has led to a new foe in our struggle for security - cybercrime.

VIS-SENSE (5) has developed a range of visual analytic technologies - such as data analysis and mining, information visualisation and user-interaction methods - that can work with huge amounts of data. It enables users to see the 'big picture' through deep analysis of large volumes of security events, and even the identification of new criminal strategies as they unfold.

The combination of automated analysis and visualisation of the data allows users to 'look behind the scenes'. And this knowledge can be used to improve automated defences against cyber criminals.

And this is not all. The 'Intelligence connecting intelligence' theme at ICT 2013 will also feature exhibits from several further projects previously covered in ICT Feature articles: LINKEDTV , BEAMING , OPENAIRE and the 'Future and emerging technology' (FET) Flagship 'Human Brain Project' (HBP).

Culture, science and creativity

This area will include exhibits on digital science and education, visualisation, new creative tools and cultural heritage. It will also house a special corner for 'young people showing the way' - targeting young people and society at large - and is home to research projects including artists, as well as a series of art exhibits.

The 3D-COFORM (6) set out to establish '3D documentation' as an affordable, practical and effective mechanism for long-term documentation of our cultural heritage. The project consortium brought together 19 partners, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, in the United Kingdom, the Louvre, France, the Florentine Museums authority and the Museum of the Imperial Forums, Italy, the World Heritage Sites in Cyprus and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in Germany.

The project created a Virtual Centre of Competence in 3D digitisation and collaborated with the European Digital Library, 'Europeana'. For example, the project produced a demonstrator that allows users to browse 3D models of exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. From a range of statuettes and ceramics, the user can choose one object to learn more about its age and origin - and turn around a 3D model of the object so as to examine it from all sides (and beneath or above)!

ECHORD (7) aimed at advancing the state of the art in human-robot interfacing and safety, robot hands and complex manipulation, mobile manipulators and cooperation, and networked robots and systems.

Coordinated by the Technische Universität München in Germany, the project set out to strengthen cooperation between scientific research and industry in European robotics. By the project's end in September 2013, there were more than 80 experimenting project partners carrying out more than 50 small-scale projects - so-called 'experiments', designed to bring about a large‐scale introduction of robotic equipment into European research organisations.

And when it comes to humanoid robots, if they need to work with people then they should be able to interact with them in the most natural way possible. This involves a combination of perceptual, communication, and motor processes, operating in a coordinated fashion. HUMAVIPS (8), which ended in January 2013, set out to give humanoid robots audio-visual abilities - exploration, recognition and interaction - such that they behave acceptably when dealing with a group of people!

For example, in a social gathering, a humanoid robot should be able to analyse a populated space, locate individual people, and determine whether they are looking at the robot and are speaking to it. Humans appear to solve these tasks easily, but for robots the project has had to implement audio and visual skills - such as 3D object positioning, sound-source localisation and gesture recognition - which the team have made available through a set of free and open-source software tools .

In addition, two more FP7 projects already covered in previous ICT Feature articles - CHESS and EXPEKT - will also be exhibiting under this theme at ICT2013.

We look forward to welcoming Europe's ICT community to see the EU-funded ICT research being exhibited in Vilnius at ICT 2013. The pathway to the future is surely to 'go North' from here!

The projects featured in this article have been supported by the Competitive and Innovation Programme's (CIP) ICT-Policy Support scheme or the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for research:

(1) 'Integrated quantum sensors'
(2) 'Laboratory skin patches and smartcards based on foils and compatible with a smart-phone'
(3) 'A unified framework for multimodal content search'
(4) 'Self-orchestrating community ambient intelligence spaces'
(5) 'Visual analytic representation of large datasets for enhancing network security'
(6) 'Tools and expertise for 3D collection formation'
(7) 'European clearing house for open robotics development'
(8) 'Humanoids with auditory and visual abilities in populated spaces'.

Links to projects on CORDIS:

- FAST-DOT project factsheet on CORDIS
- ISENSE project factsheet on CORDIS
- LABONFOIL project factsheet on CORDIS
- I-SEARCH project factsheet on CORDIS
- SOCIETIES project factsheet on CORDIS
- VIS-SENSE project factsheet on CORDIS
- 3D-COFORM project factsheet on CORDIS
- ECHORD project factsheet on CORDIS
- HUMAVIPS project factsheet on CORDIS

Links to projects' website:

- 'Compact ultrafast laser sources based on novel quantum-dot structures' project website
- 'Integrated quantum sensors' website
- 'Laboratory skin patches and smartcards based on foils and compatible with a smart-phone' website
- 'A unified framework for multimodal content search' website
- 'Self-orchestrating community ambient-intelligence spaces' website
- 'Visual analytic representation of large datasets for enhancing network security' website
- 'Tools and expertise for 3D collection formation' website
- 'European clearing house for open robotics development' website
- 'Humanoids with auditory and visual abilities in populated spaces' website

Links to related news and articles:

- Commissioner Kroes' blog post on ICT research: 'The EU investing in innovation — new partnerships to support electronics and ageing well'
- Digital Agenda news: ICT 2013 conference programme
- Feature Stories - A hands-on approach to physics in the classroom
- Feature Stories - Beam me to my meeting!
- Feature Stories - Open access: EU project results go public
- Feature Stories - Partnering for pan-European supercomputing
- Feature Stories - TV and the internet: a marriage made in entertainment heaven
- Feature Stories - Future Internet … a thing of beauty and promise
- Feature Stories - Meet the pioneers of future and emerging technology
- Feature Stories - From electronic brains to the power of the mind…

Other links:

- European Commission's Digital Agenda website

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