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Table of contents
of the current issue

Selected Highlights
The Future
Internet -
Challenges and initiatives

EU approach
towards the
Future Internet

EIFFEL - Shaping
the Future

Trilogy -
Architecting the Future Internet

France Telecom -
A possible vision
of the Future

Telenor - Where should the
Internet be

Interview with
online media
expert Philippe Martineau


EU approach towards the Future Internet


Dr. Joao Schwarz da Silva
Director of Converged Networks and Services
European Commission Information Society and Media Directorate-General

As part of the preparatory process leading to the definition of the ICT activities of the 7th Framework Programme of R&D, the European Commission took steps towards the creation of a Future-of-the-Internet Think Tank, which was tasked to provide a position paper that could help framing future co-ordinated actions at EU level. It was indeed felt that the activities under FP7 would benefit from a more systematic and co-ordinated approach notably in what concerned the Future of the Internet.

A number of drivers framing the future technological developments were identified such as:

  • The increasing pervasiveness of mobility and wireless technologies;
  •  The soaring number of connected devices, eventually leading to sensor networks and the Internet of Things;
  • The insatiable demand for bandwidth, and underlying "unlimited capacity" core networks;
  • The accelerated race for processing power and memory increase, continuing to support the trend of more and more intelligence at the network periphery;
  • The expected heavy increase in digitized media, user generated content and associated service requirements for data search, handling, and organisation.
  • Location determination, as an important enabler for new categories of context aware services and of multi network services;
  • End-user-provided infrastructure and services, possibly driving a user-generated infrastructure, similarly to the trend towards user-generated content;
  • Security and resilience of the infrastructures, associated to growing concerns for privacy in an environment where users (or their attributes/avatars) will have multiple identities and identifiers:
  • More and more intelligent devices with self-adaptation/context awareness characteristics;
  • Service dynamic adaptation and service configurability, with service platforms providing the agility for ad-hoc coalition of resources.

The approach taken from the outset was to encourage an academic industry partnership leading to coherent industrial research roadmaps in partnership with university research. Four European Technology Platforms active in the domain of networked systems and technologies (eMobility, NEM, NESSI, ISI) were, hence, called upon to assist in the process.

The result of all these efforts is now clearly visible with over 60 research projects having been contracted further to the first ICT Call for proposals. Additional projects arising out of the second Call of FP7 are currently in the negotiation phase. The variety of perspectives taken by these projects is well in line with the technological and societal drivers identified by the Think Tank whilst providing a visible European counter part to Future Internet initiatives started in other regions of the world.

Towards a Collaborative Platform

The magnitude of the effort, much beyond that of other regional initiatives should provide a unique opportunity for Europe to investigate a number of technological and associated policy domains that have a bearing on the network and service infrastructure elements of the Internet of tomorrow. Reaping the maximum benefits of such a comprehensive portfolio of projects however requires the emergence of cross-domain synergies, holding the potential for disruptive and innovative change. Indeed, whilst other “Future Internet” initiatives in the world are primarily focusing on “network architecture” issue, the ICT programme has adopted a holistic approach tightly embedding the network, content, objects, service and security dimensions.

The European Commission has hence called for the launch of an ambitious collaborative platform between the R&D stakeholders representing academia, research institutes and industry, represented notably by the European Technology Platforms active in the field, such as eMobility, NEM, NESSI, ISI and ePOSS. The multiple facets of the issues surrounding the further evolution of the Internet, must be tackled in such a way that Europe's knowledge base and competitiveness are enhanced and bold steps are taken to shape and drive the Future Internet. Amongst the many questions that may be raised in the context of cross-domain research,, the following provide a mere illustration of the issues at stake:

  • How will the developments in the content and (3D) media sphere impact the network and service architectures? Which limitations will these architectures impose?
  • What will be in the network and what in the service layer? How will virtualisation of storage and processing power impact on service delivery?
  • What are the new security, privacy and trust requirements to be expected as a result of the new media Internet? Which are the implications on content arising out of developments in security? Where to focus attention on? Identity, privacy, trust, reputation?
  • How will the virtual worlds and content services be influenced by the developments on the Internet of Things? Which critical search and find solutions need to be developed?
  • What needs to be done to lower the barriers for service development? Is there scope for an open service framework for mobile media services? How fast will the mobile Internet evolve? What are the implications?
  • How will the infrastructure be influenced by the developments on the Internet of Things? Which architectural issues for a future Object Name Service (ONS)? What are the likely developments beyond NFC and which critical operational and management solutions need to be considered to cope with sensor-based edge networks?
  • What are the requirements for large scale testbeds and experimental facilities as seen notably from a content and media and service perspective? Which are the key elements of such large-scale European facilities?

As an initial step towards the setting in place of such a collaborative platform, a conference is currently being organised by the Slovenian Presidency in Bled (31 March – 2 April 2008), which, no doubt, will create the much needed European momentum towards the Future Internet. Opportunities for action at European level will be explored with the intention of further facilitating and mobilising the relevant research constituencies, be them at European or national level.

Figure: EC-funded projects in the Future Internet area

Steps toward the next FP7-ICT Work Programme

As we consider the future FP7-ICT Work Programme, on the basis of which further calls for proposals will be launched, it becomes clear that the research effort in this field will have to be further refocused and reinforced to ensure European leadership in developing the Future Internet.

A federating approach needs to be developed around the following themes:

  • The “Network of the Future” with a focus on solutions to cope with the issues of capacity, mobility, scalability and flexibility of the ICT infrastructure;
  • The "Internet of Services" with a focus on issues such as virtualisation, dynamically composed service overlay over a modified network structure and service joint execution environments;
  • The "Internet of Things” with a focus on networked object management and associated service and data discovery architectures, with integration in generic business environments.
  • The "Security of ICT infrastructures and services" with a focus on secure, resilient and trusted networks and service architectures and composite end-to-end services, as well as identity management and business and personal data protection and privacy;
  • The "3D Media Internet" with a focus on the architectural and related technological implications of 3D virtual environments over networked platforms.
  • The "Experimental Facilities" with a focus on experimentally-driven research projects, which cut across several layers from connectivity via service architectures to applications, thereby addressing the Future Internet from a broad system perspective.

A wide ranging consultation with the concerned actors has been planned over the First semester of 2008, to devise a Work Programme that best responds to the major transformations expected in the coming decade – notably in what concerns the industrial and business landscape, and in ICT technologies and infrastructures.

The discussion on the elements of the Work Programme that pertain to the Future Internet are clearly of utmost importance in this regard, as tomorrow's networked world, ever more pervasive and more ubiquitous, will have profound economic and social impact while becoming more essential for everyday life. Our response to the globalisation of markets, keener competition, the ever-faster pace of technological change, and new value chains is a key challenge for the EU.

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