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Driving the fire engine to 2020

Projects news & results: 17/03/2014 - 13:59
The EU’s FIRE initiative aims to make its large-scale experimental research facilities the backbone of European internet research and innovation by 2020. How will it get there, and who will set its priorities? FIRE’s stakeholders have the chance to decide what direction the FIRE should take.

As FIRE prepares for 2015-2020, its most focused years for Horizon 2020, it has to choose which trends to invest in. It also has to determine whose needs to support and how to structure that support.

So why not ask the people who built FIRE, or use its facilities, or could potentially use them in the future? This is the role of AmpliFIRE. It provides a forum for industry, researchers and social stakeholders to drive FIRE towards the best facilities and model for their needs.

The AmpliFIRE consultation process lets users identify gaps in FIRE’s platforms and the needs of FIRE’s users and provides ways to discuss various possible research directions for the federation of internet research facilities. To build this roadmap, AmpliFIRE’s “FIRE Radar” process “scans” research and industry trends and estimates what are the most important developments and when they are likely to occur.

From the results of this process, AmpliFIRE proposes collaboration models, service offerings and research opportunities to stakeholders for their feedback. The goal is for FIRE to build a more responsive “pull” model, driven by users’ demands, rather than its previous “push” model, which simply promoted available technologies.

The most recent Radar study shows that user demand is already influencing FIRE’s evolution. Funded open calls, specific targeted research projects (STREPs) and open access opportunities already drive FIRE’s offering. However, the Radar study also identifies the need for a better match between the FIRE facilities and user needs.

Aiming to increase industry participation and social innovation, AmpliFIRE provides a more organised way for users to show how FIRE can become a collaborative, communityand market-driven environment for both scientific and entrepreneurial activities.

EMERGING PRIORITIES

AmpliFIRE has already identified possible research directions from the latest Radar study, which shows that internet user demand will be based on four trends.

  • The Internet of Things: a global, connected network of mobile devices, product tags, sensors and actuators, and mobile devices that interact so that people can achieve shared goals without direct user input. Automated retail stock control systems are typical application of this trend.
  • The Internet of Services: internet-scaled service-oriented computing, such as cloud software (SaaS) or platforms (PaaS).
  • The Internet of Information: sharing all types of media, data, and content across the internet in ever increasing amounts and combining data to generate new content.
  • The Internet of People: people to people networking, where users connect directly with other users privately and securely through their personal cloud. Here, the boundaries between systems and users will become increasingly blurred, giving a user-directed architecture for the internet.

However, businesses and individuals cannot benefit from the opportunities these trends offer without the right internet infrastructure. The future internet will need to have an adaptable infrastructure and be software-defined, both wired and wireless and more open than ever before.

FIRE’s already extensive federation of different kinds of facilities lets experimenters and end users test that their applications work in the right environments. To support the internet’s further expansion to become an Internet of Things, services, information and people, FIRE will need to offer an even greater range of test facilities.

This expansion will lead to a research environment that is richer than the commercial world or individual research laboratories can provide. AmpliFIRE will help users define a “FIRE ecosystem”, a federation of connected regional and urban innovation ecosystems, offering internet infrastructures, services and applications for industry and society.

FUTURE MODELS FOR FIRE

As well as highlighting research priorities, AmpliFIRE’s Radar suggests a number of possible organisational structures for FIRE to discover which best matches users’ needs. Each of these structures corresponds to different driving factors and uncertainties.

Two such scenarios are the industrial co-operative model and the social innovation ecosystem model. Which one better fits with the business and social aims of FIRE remains to be seen.

THE INDUSTRIAL CO-OPERATIVE MODEL

In the industrial co-operative model, commercial and noncommercial stakeholders work together to provide experimental infrastructures and services. The federated facilities are centrally organised as a single large-scale federated facility, based upon well-established standards and common platforms.

This lets FIRE support commercial R&D into new future internet technologies that require large-scale trials. The facility offers commercial opportunities by providing new services within its test bed, such as data hosting, data processing, and communication brokering. For SMEs and start-ups that develop new software, this gives them the chance to test developments across the federation’s infrastructure. At the same time, each testing facility can charge users on a pay-per-use basis, giving them a financial incentive to join the federation. With its range of differing infrastructures, FIRE would evolve in an organised fashion to remain at the cutting edge of internet research. Federating access to experimental facilities has already been a theme of FIRE so far, and this model would help its next generation, FIRE+, develop processes and services for an extended smart environment.

ANOTHER VISION – THE SOCIAL INNOVATION MODEL

Alternatively, FIRE could evolve as a self-organising research federation. In the social innovation ecosystem model, FIRE would become a collection of different, dynamic and flexible resources interacting with each other and autonomously creating new software tools to test applications and services.

Facilities could include service-based infrastructures, network infrastructure, smart city test beds, user-centred living labs and application-specific sensor-instrumented services. These would be able to use and potentially be composed of one another.

Under this model, FIRE’s emphasis would be more on distributed community clouds and generating and maintaining a personal footprint in a real-time wireless “social” network. It would support research exploring interoperability issues in the Internet of Things, including shared, or “sliced”, use of resources.

Perhaps the most novel involvement is that people would be the creators, engineering new social computing platforms and service to support open, community driven innovation with the technologies and facilities available (often with minimal expertise). FIRE would then offer a research tool truly representative of the Future Internet.

ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY

FIRE needs its stakeholders’ input to refine this vision and make its route clear.

To achieve this, AmpliFIRE is coordinating a series of public workshops, organising online community discussions, and collecting direct feedback about the latest Radar study. FIRE also plans to collaborate with wider future internet activities, explore how facilities can be shared, and help future internet communities to work together. These communities include the Future Internet Public-Private Partnership (FI-PPP) and its XIFI infrastructure project, and the network of laboratories created under the European Institution of Innovation and Technology (EIT-ICT).

AmpliFIRE has created the venues for feedback, more notably the FIRE Forum. It now invites users to come to these events, to contribute their input to the working out FIRE’s vision, and drive the portfolio of future FIRE+ projects to their new destination.

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