For participation – in society & business
The present report is consultative. It has been prepared to stimulate
comment from the IST community, so as to inform planning of the IST Priority
Theme for the remainder of the 6th Framework Programme as well as planning
of the 7th Framework Programme.
This Executive Summary highlights the most important aspects of current
thinking in ISTAG. These are explained and amplified in the text, and
further background and detail is given in a series of working group reports
listed in the bibliography.
Ambient Intelligence – a stable yet evolving vision
Insofar as AmI [Ambient
Intelligence] is “a set of properties of an environment
that we are in the process of creating”, It is not necessary to more tightly
define the term Ambient Intelligence. Most importantly, AmI remains a
principal focus for ICT RTD. But it is important to appreciate that AmI
remains an ‘emerging property’ and that future scenario building and iterations
of the vision should treat AmI as an ‘imagined concept’ and not as a set
of specified requirements.
AmI supports participation
While AmI should not be promoted as a panacea for social problems, it
does represent a new paradigm for how people can work and live together.
AmI enables and facilitates participation
by the individual - in society, in a multiplicity of social and business
communities, and in the administration and management of all aspects of
their lives, from entertainment to governance. Radical social transformations
are likely to result from the implementation of the AmI vision.
Business, too, will be transformed by the new forms of fluid, networked,
business enabled by AmI. Value-chain relationships will change significantly
and will affect every aspect of work processes. Employers, workers and
trade organizations must be made aware of these potential changes, so
they are able to respond to the new opportunities. Anticipated productivity
gains will not materialise if the technology is superimposed on old organisational
infrastructures and business practices.
It will be necessary to address both societal and business concerns and
hard technological problems so as to provide the necessary trust and confidence
in AmI. But neither ISTAG nor the IST research community should shrink
from the exciting possibilities.
AmI must be conceived holistically
AmI will be realised through highly complex systems. It will no longer
be sufficient to perform specific research, embody the results of that
research in particular technology developments and products, and then
seek to commercialise those products. The technical complexity of modern
systems based on ICTs requires that all aspects of the innovation chain
integrate their efforts. The concentration and coherence required to achieve
both significant technological development and significant market impact
requires engagement of both academic and industrial researchers, which
is conditioned by business strategy, which is in turn conditioned by investment
strategy. To be effective, all of the research and business community
must keep pace with the rapid co-evolution of the technology, the market,
and social and administrative requirements.
Research for integration
Pursuit of the AmI vision will require contributions from many streams
of research to realise both ‘ambience’ and ‘intelligence’. But it is in
the area of research to support integration that significant new avenues
of research need to be opened. The development of the AmI space will depend
not simply on finding solutions to the research challenges for ambience
and intelligence, but on the extent to which mechanisms can be found to
ensure the successful, seamless, integration of components and their convergence
into AmI systems. Thus far, ISTAG has identified platform design, software
and service architecture, design, engineering and integration, and ‘Experience
Prototyping’ as critical research areas.
Open standards and interoperability
Consensus building to achieve open standards is a well-recognised asset
of European ICT industry. The example of the GSM success illustrates this
clearly. The danger is that as AmI evolves, proprietary systems become
the only option for users and market dominance by non-European companies
in fields such as operating systems expands to the emerging AmI fields.
This would not only limit innovation: it would jeopardise the very concept
of ‘seamlessness’ in the AmI environment, and weaken the position of European
industry. ISTAG strongly supports the proactive establishment and support
of forums to facilitate the early emergence of consensus, by bringing
the appropriate actors together and helping the building of shared ambitions
and goals across industry, academia and public authorities.
A ‘system level’ focus
The increasing complexity of the ICT systems necessary to realise the
AmI vision affects not only the technical value chain but also the business
and exploitation channels of ICT products and services. More than ever,
research needs to be embedded as early as possible in a full value chain
development in order to enable the mastery of an increasingly complex
chain of technologies and business channels. The competitive edge is in
the capacity to master the integration of technology building blocks into
platforms or environments on which high value applications, products and
services can be built. This is, in general, a weakness in European research
that translates into gaps between technology and application. This gap
needs to be filled with focussed research to integrate the building blocks
as they become available.
Achieving more from available resources
AmI cannot be achieved piecemeal: it requires coherent application of
resources Europe-wide. AmI also offers an opportunity for co-ordinating
resources – which is generally accepted to be necessary to overcome the
traditional fragmentation across the EU. In general, the necessarily limited
resources available may be applied more effectively through greater coherence,
co-ordination and concentration. All parts of the innovation supply chain
from idea to market should be engaged, requiring effective ways of inter-working
between industry and academia and between SME’s and larger organisations.
Finance: the role of public procurement
Public spending represents 15% of GDP in Europe in many fields where ICT
can bring significant improvements. Yet public administrations seldom
use their power as major purchasers to achieve a global impact: there
have been missed opportunities for transforming ICT breakthroughs into
business and societal successes. However, areas in which AmI can transform
public services, such as eGovernment, eHealth, and eLearning, are now
high on the political agenda. The time is opportune for Europe’s public
sector to develop a critical mass of first users in such fields. This
does not require additional public financing but redirecting of existing
spending so as to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Governments make
ideal ‘first buyers’. European governments should be at the forefront
of ICT adoption - not only applying established technologies and solutions
but actively encouraging innovation and facilitating the establishment
of new markets.
Strategic ‘grand challenge’ initiatives
Closely related to the more effective deployment of public investments,
ISTAG suggests the identification of large scale and visionary European-wide
AmI initiatives that promote and advance European research and technology
and capitalise on financial mechanisms such as public procurement. These
should harness the concentrated expertise, knowledge and capabilities
of European personnel in the pursuit of objectives that will benefit European
society and industry. Such initiatives should be implemented in addition
to, and in combination with research programmes. They would ensure a closer
articulation between research and implementation actions and support the
transfer of advanced technology into applications.
Co-ordination of RTD funding
Currently RTD funding is available from Member States and Regional Authorities,
in addition to the funding available from the European Union, through
a wide range of programmes. There should be clearer distribution of the
roles of the various funding sources, and the rules governing public funding
in Member states and at EU levels should be harmonised, so as to ensure
compatibility and co-ordination between programmes and achieve an integrated
portfolio of activities.
Achievement and assurance of excellent research
European research efforts should be concentrated to foster, demonstrate
and exploit research excellence and give prominence to the high quality
and internationally competitive research that is taking place in Europe.
Experience has shown than in areas where such concentration of effort
has been possible and such centres exist, as in microelectronics and micro-systems,
Europe has been able to establish clear industrial leadership world-wide.
The ‘Networks of Excellence’ introduced in the 6th Framework Programme
are intended to reduce fragmentation and lead to permanent restructuring
of the research base. ISTAG now suggests that consideration be given to
additional ways to concentrate effort in a way which ensures the continued
flexibility, responsiveness, and competitiveness of the RTD community.
Experience and Application Research Centres
ISTAG suggests that AmI research increasingly needs “to allow people
to live in their own future” in order to bring that research closer
to the needs of citizens and business. In support of this idea, ISTAG
proposes the establishment of ‘Experience and Application Research Centres’
– for integrated research and concurrent assessment of AmI technologies
and systems. Such facilities should enable prototyping of novel interaction
concepts while resembling natural environments of use. These ‘experience
prototyping’ centres should also be equipped with an observation infrastructure
that can capture and analyse the behaviour of people that interact with
the experience prototypes.
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