Monday Nov 24, 2008

ICT 2008, Lyon

I got into the conference in time to hear the words of welcome from the Mayor of Lyon, and the opening panel discussion. The panel was chaired by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, and its participants were Luc Chatel, Secrétaire d'Etat chargé de l'Industrie et de la Consommation, France, Esko Aho, Executive Vice President, Nokia Corporation, and Former President of the Finnish Innovation Fund (SITRA), former Prime Minister of Finland and one of the key commentators on FP6, he chaired the group that produced "Information Society Research and Innovation: Delivering results with sustained impact", which was published in September. Also on the panel were Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent, previously of BT, Harold Goddijn, CEO, TomTom and Michel Cosnard, CEO and Chairman, INRIA, representing a research view. The conference has a video link on its site for this session. The panel was called "Setting the ICT Agenda for the Next Decade" , has its own page. The panelists said little of controversy, with Verwaayen arguing that trust and security were keys with Aho arguing for a global dimension, starting from a green perspective to invest in productive knowledge. He also interestingly argued that US leadership was based on entrepreneurialism and commercial innovation. I was surprised, I am not yet convinced that european basic science research is yet competitive with the US. For instance, while researching NESSI's contribution to the EU's Software Industrial policy, I was pointed at China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University's study of Academic Ranking of World Universities. I, and others, have considered the methodology and anomalies, but it illustrates a world domination of scientific excellence in the universities by the USA. However Goddijn, who was there to tell the startup story, stated that his biggest problems in building Tom Tom were not technological, but regulatory compliance, specifically, VAT and patent registration. These comments got a round of applause, and Verwaayen weighed in specifically asking when it might become possible to register patents in the EU in one language. There were further discussions on the public policy dimensions of how innovation enters the economy, discussing public/private partnerships, educational/innovation clusters with much agreement about the short term changes in ICT.

In between the opening sessions and the panel discussion, some video's from Futuris were shown. This focused on the use of ICT in health care delivery. I have argued previously that the UK's investment in i-health care has been too focused on record keepting and NHS cost control, so it was good to see a couple of case studies showing the innovative use technology in improving the ill and injured's lives. I can't find the specific video on the Futuris site, but Futuris is an EU sponsored TV show broadcast on the Euronews channel. Leave me a comment if you find it.

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Wednesday Dec 12, 2007

So what is wrong with the Internet?

On Day 2, of the NESSI AGM, we broke into seminar groups. The first session I attended was called the ' Future of the Internet', it was led by Mike Fisher of BT [Google him], who presented about the forces for change on the internet, both historic constraints and changes being brought about by technology innovation, and demand. Again a key view of the future is the the internet evolves from a network of computers, beyond a network of things to a network of services. Since Mike comes from a network company, and a large one at that, and so understands how poorly IT is ready to manage the challenge of scale raised by these factors.

In the afternoon, I attended the 'Service Orientated Infrastructure' session. Some aspects of the problem domain are very broad and interesting, but the discussions seemed focused around today's grid solutions in academia and commerce, although I arrived late. This working group's documents are also available on the NESSI web site SOI work group page, and their own web site. The GRID Strategic Research Agenda is available from the NESSI Site [.pdf].

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Tuesday Dec 11, 2007

NESSI's Research & Projects

There then followed a series of presentations about the current approach to research and most interestingly presentations from the leading strategic projects. These can be found on the NESSI's AGM page on their web site.

This was followed by cocktails. Very nice!

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Driving change on the internet

The first key note was from Dr. Joao Schwarz Da Silva, a Director from the Commission's ICT. He envisioned a network of services driven by trends easily observable today. These are,

  • Social Networks
  • Digital Production
  • Virtual Worlds
  • Internet of Things

Much of the consideration around social networks seems around how to monetise the size of the network. The value created by cooperation seems always to be under valued. Dr. Da Silva predicted that the growth of social networks and user created content would lead to the growth of what he calls Digital Production. At its most simple, this will be just allowing mashups on a home page, however more complex models such as the tools for machinima or audio manipulation are clearly here today, it'll be interesting to see where this goes.

I am more questioning that virtual worlds will become ubiquitous and powerful problem solving tools. It is clear that World of Warcraft is a hugely popular both social network and digital world, but we have spent 1000's of years devising two dimensional representations of most of the problems we seek to solve. We need new representational metaphors before 3D rendering and virtual worlds become serious problem solving devices. I mentioned this earlier in the year. These criticisms are before considering that a Social Network needs to leverage the wisdom of crowds, or at least the wisdom of huddles. Facebook's visual {book/DVD} shelf works because you can see what both your close friends and strangers say about the books and films you're interested in. You can see what everyone, or at least your friends recommend. An interesting counterpoint though is that if you consider electronic gaming to be a social network, then sharding reduces the wisdom of crowds; you can only learn  from the wisdom of a shard. There's lots of work to do before 3D and/or Virtual Worlds truly take off.

He then looked at how in a network of services, one discovers anything useful. So this is partly how does one discover any content, such as images (tags), houses (attributes) etc., but for services we expect a directory solution. There isn't yet a directory of internet services.

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Monday Dec 10, 2007

Hi Tech in Europe

And back to Brussels for a bit of EU politicking. Last time I traveled through Heathrow and the journey home was terrible. This time I travel through Southampton and the journey out is fine. I get to the Sun Office on the airport estate, do my meeting and have an easy ride into the hotel in the city centre.

I am attending the NESSI AGM. I wrote about it last time I visited Brussels in November, but it is having its AGM over the next two days. I will be commenting on it, but the slides and AV files will appear on its web site.

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