Slovakia currently ranks as a 'moderate innovator' on the European Innovation Scoreboard on a par with countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece - no small feat for a country of less than 5.5 million people that - until after 1918 - had no modern universities or technical institutes and almost no Slovak-language high schools. Today, Slovakia is continuing to target sustained progress in research and development with the Slovak government's 2011-2013 innovation policy focusing on strengthening public- and private-sector collaboration for innovation and promoting science education.
The Slovak Academy of Sciences stands out as the country's foremost scientific institution, supporting a range of projects that are helping Slovak researchers to make their mark, not only in Slovakia, but across Europe and worldwide.
One such initiative in the increasingly important field of quantum information and quantum computing is Quie2t (1). Coordinated by the Slovak Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics, the project is setting up a sustainable pan-European research architecture for quantum information foundations and technologies, structured around the establishment of four virtual institutes focused on quantum communication, quantum computing, quantum information sciences and quantum technologies. Also involving partners from Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, the initiative aims to make considerable progress in quantum information sciences, a field that promises to lead to computers and communication systems with levels of performance that are incomparable to anything that exists today.
A quantum computer, for example, would in theory take seconds to solve problems that today's PCs would take billions of years to decipher.
Acclaimed Slovak physicist Vladimir Buzek, the coordinator of Quie2t, is also involved in another EU-funded quantum information project called Q-Essence (2). The focus here is on a strange - Albert Einstein described it as 'spooky' - phenomenon known as quantum entanglement.
In essence, quantum entanglement occurs when particles such as photons, electrons and molecules interact physically and then become separated but remain intimately connected, even if they are thousands of kilometres apart. It defies common physical sense, but one particle located in Bratislava, if measured by an observer, would exhibit the exact opposite qualities of its entangled counterpart in Brussels.
A pair of quantum systems in an entangled state can be used as a quantum information channel to perform computational, communication and cryptographic tasks that are impossible for classical systems.
In the Q-Essence project, the researchers are developing protocols, architectures, interfaces and components in an effort to build entanglement-enabled and entanglement-enhanced ICT devices such as atomic clocks, quantum sensors and quantum random-number generators. They are also working on novel physical-layer architectures for long-distance quantum communication and distributed quantum information protocols for multiuser trust, privacy-protection and security.
While quantum technologies have far-reaching implications for the future, other Slovak scientists are working on technologies that will have more immediate impact — socially, economically and environmentally.
From cars to homes, Slovakian researchers target energy efficiency
As Europe moves to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels, improve energy efficiency and protect the environment, electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular. But while many electric cars are already on European roads, the infrastructure to support them, from charging stations to smart metering systems, is still far from adequate. Conversely, electric vehicles combined with the proper infrastructure and smart grid technology, could act as power sources themselves, smoothing fluctuations in electricity supply and demand across the grid.
The company Broadbit Slovakia is currently involved in two EU-funded projects that address those issues. In the Powerup (3) initiative, which the Slovak firm is coordinating, researchers from seven countries are developing and testing vehicle-to-grid interface technologies that aim to balance electricity supply and demand, envisioning a future in which millions of electric vehicles not only drain power from the grid but also give it back as and when needed. And in the e-Dash (4) project, Broadbit Slovakia is part of a pan-European consortium focusing more on the other side of the equation: enabling electric vehicles to be recharged as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
'e-Dash aims at the harmonisation of electricity demand in smart grids for the sustainable integration of electric vehicles. This is addressed by an intelligent charging system supported with near real-time exchange of charge-related data between electric vehicles and the grid,' the project team says. 'Adopting the e-Dash approach allows high-current, fast-charging for large numbers of electric vehicles in a brand-independent way and price-adaptive charging/reverse-charging at optimum price for the customer.'
Saving money, improving energy efficiency and putting power back into the grid is also the focus of another project involving Slovakian ICT company Ardaco. The focus of the Smartcode (5) initiative is not vehicles but rather buildings and neighbourhoods, with the project researchers looking to develop low-cost and easy-to-implement technology for smart energy management. Their goal is to efficiently manage demand from electrical devices in buildings and coordinate supply from local energy sources, which could be solar panels on individual homes or small wind farms, creating local smart sub-grids interconnected with larger power networks.
'The outcome of this "think globally, act locally" project will reduce overall energy intensity and simultaneously enable residences and small commercial premises to profit from an open European electricity market,' says Prof. Dr Christoph Grimm, the Smartcode scientific coordinator.
How buildings are used, when they are used and who is using them is crucial information for efficiently managing energy consumption. Adapt4ee (6), a project involving the Technical University of Kosice in Slovakia, is addressing this issue through the development of sensing and analysis technology so business and occupancy data can be incorporated into the planning, design and evaluation of energy-efficient commercial buildings. The researchers aim to create an enhanced semantic enterprise data model that can be used to manage energy consumption in buildings intelligently depending on the type of business, time of day and level of occupancy.
With a similar focus on the business world, the Technical University of Kosice, along with Slovak company Intersoft, is also taking part in the Ebbits (7) project, which aims to enable enterprises to easily integrate networked devices and ambient intelligence applications - the so-called 'internet of things' - into their business processes.
Using a service-oriented architecture based on open protocols and middleware, the researchers' goal is to bridge the gap between the internet of things and enterprise applications, people, services and the physical world. The aim is to create a platform that transforms devices and subsystems into web services, thereby feeding information generated by 'Radio frequency identification' (RFID) tags or sensors directly into enterprise systems for a wide variety of applications, from food traceability to product lifecycle management.
The projects featured in this article have been supported by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for research.
(1) Quie2t: Quantum information entanglement-enabled technologies
(2) Q-Essence: Quantum interfaces, sensors and communication based on entanglement
(3) Powerup: Specification, Implementation, Field Trial, and Standardisation of the Vehicle-2-Grid Interface
(4) e-Dash: Electricity Demand and Supply Harmonizing for EVs
(5) Smartcode: Smart Control of Demand for Consumption and Supply to enable balanced, energy-positive buildings and neighbourhoods
(6) Adapt4ee: Occupant Aware, Intelligent and Adaptive Enterprises
(7) Ebbits: Enabling business-based Internet of Things and Services - An Interoperability platform for a real-world populated Internet of Things domain
- FP7 on CORDIS
- Quie2t on CORDIS
- Q-Essence on CORDIS
- Powerup on CORDIS
- e-Dash on CORDIS
- Smartcode on CORDIS
- Adapt4ee on CORDIS
- Ebbits: on CORDIS