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Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC)
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Future Internet

Future Internet consists of emerging technologies that open up extraordinary opportunities for social and economic development. They are now a challenge to the worldwide activities in R&D. Portugal has elected this area as a special strategic priority, by choosing it as a major component of several of the Knowledge Networks launched in 2006.

In the future, the Internet will not only integrate a fiber optic backbone, generalized and wireless access to very large broadband, large information systems, as it will involve sophisticated social networks, smart objects, cyber-physical systems based on networks of distributed sensors and actuators, and vehicles equipped with advanced communications.

We are entering a new phase of development of the information society, in which the Internet not only connects computers and communication terminals, but potentially connects any of the objects that surround us every day and is used for creating sophisticated environments interacting with people and bringing them higher quality and more convenient services. It is this development that is commonly called Future Internet.

In several of the Knowledge Networks launched in Portugal since 2006, Future Internet assumes a center-stage role. Indeed:

  • It is central to the Carnegie Mellon – Portugal Program, which focuses on Next Generation Networks (NGN) for reliable high quality services, cyber-physical systems for ambient intelligence, human-centered computing, and public policy analysis of technological change in ICTs ;
  • In a dominant part of the MIT – Portugal program, particularly reagarding sustainable energy and transports with the use of smart grids and smart metering and other sensor-based networks and associated information systems, systems of electric cars and the corresponding large scale information management and advanced mobility systems, and health care support systems involving vital functions sensors on people in mobility and the related supporting applications and systems;
  • In the UTexas Austin – Portugal program, centered in advanced digital media technologies, and intensive interactive and graphic technologies, creative industries particularly of movies and video, and the development of advanced content;
  • In the Harvard Medical School – Portugal program dedicated to providing, openly on the Internet, medical and biomedical research content, of validated quality, namely for medical students, health practitioners and the general public;
  • In the Fraunhofer – Portugal program dedicated to technology, applications and services for Ambient Assisted Living.

The Future Internet topics were also widely considered in 2009, in the “Science 2009 – Meeting with Science in Portugal: Future Internet Topics Featured”, as they had been in 2008 in the “Science 2008 – Meeting with Science in Portugal”. In 22-24 of February 2010, themes of Future Internet were discussed in three fora organized by the Carnegie Mellon – Portugal program, namely: “Innovation Forum on Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection”, “Innovation Forum on Future Internet Technologies and Services ”, Innovation Forum on Services and Technologies for Interactive Media”.

The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) organized on the 10th of May 2010, at the Macao Scientific and Cultural Center, in Lisbon, the Forum for the Information Society - Future Internet with the objective of bringing together existing competencies in Portugal in areas strategic for the development of the Future Internet, a theme that was the object of a special national impulse, in particular within the international Knowledge Networks of Portugal with top world institutions, but also in other programs, to discuss opportunities related to technologies, applications and services in the areas of the Future Internet.

Besides the participation of the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) in the steering of the several Knowledge Networks, the opportunities for participation in projects related to Future Internet in European Union funded programs in whose management structures UMIC represents Portugal have also been disseminated, as is the case of the ICT PSP – ICT Policy Support Program, known as CIP–ICT PSP, and of AAL – Ambient Assisted Living program (see Portugal in the Ambient Assisted Living Association created in Brussels).

As Future Internet was assumed as a priority area in Portugal since 2006, we are in a particularly favorable situation to seize the opportunity when the rapid development of related technologies is foreseen, allowing Portugal to participate in the development of these technologies and in the creation of the associated scientific knowledge practically from the beginning of its take off.

Within the 7th Framework Program of Research of the European Union (EU), an open call for Future Internet projects is planned to open in July 2010 with a budget close to 300 million euros, in which it is of the most interest to take advantage of the competitiveness achieved in these fields in recent years by Portugal, as a result of having been taken as priorities in several Portuguese programs considerably ahead of the EU programs. In this regard, the European Commission published on the 28th of October 2009 the Communication “A public-private partnership on the Future Internet”and there is additional information provided about European activities on Future Internet in the EC website on the Future Internet and in the European Future Internet Portal.

The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) has been systematically and sustainably preparing the positioning of Portugal within this context since 2007, so as to take the greatest advantage of the opportunities that will open in the EU regarding Future Internet.

In fact, the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) integrates, through its President, the FIF – Future Internet Forum, established within the EU on May 12, 2009 (see Launching the Future Internet Forum in Prague) at the time (11-13 of May) of the Future of Internet Conferencein Prague, which was the 3rd meeting of the Future Internet Assembly (FIA) after the 1st meeting of the FIA, in Bled, Slovenia, from March 31 to April 2, 2008, and the 2nd meeting of the FIA, in Madrid, Spain, on 9-10 December 2008.The FIF met for the second time at Stockholm in 23-24 November 2009, at the time of the meeting of the 4th meeting of the FIA in the Swedish Presidency of the European Union.

The FIF – Future Internet Forum brings together representatives of Member and Associate States and focuses on policies for R&D and innovation to enable Member and Associate States to share good practices and experiences, overcoming the fragmentation of efforts in order to seek synergies and transversal programs and initiatives funded at the national and EU levels. The role and responsibilities of FIF are complementary to other existing groups and fora, such as the National ICT Research Directors Forum, the i2010 High Level Group, the CIP–ICT PSP Committee, ICT FP7 Committee (ICTC), the IST Advisory Group (ISTAG), etc. (the representation of Portugal in the first three is assured by the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), and in the first two the delegate of Portugal is the President of UMIC), with which the FIF will seek to establish regular collaboration and exchange of information.

The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) also participates in the consortium of Concerted Action “Coordination of the European Future Internet Forum of Member States”, approved in February 2010 under the 7th Framework Program of Research of the EU, with the aim of supporting of the dialogue among government agencies /ministries and research councils and funding agencies, and the development and consolidation of Future Internet in the different countries as well as the collaboration in a transnational European environment, combining efforts and reaching a critical mass for the encouragement of research on Future Internet in Europe. This project consortium includes besides UMIC: WIT – Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland, NWO – Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research from the Netherlands, University of Luxembourg, NKTH – National Office for Research and Technology of Hungary, and AETIC – Association of Information and Communication Technologies of Spain, will provide a secretariat to support this activity and promote the exchange of knowledge between the various actors, seeking to create a website that shall become the main portal of research on Future Internet in Europe. In this project, UMIC coordinates the Working Package for the creation of the project infrastructure, in which it has the task of establishing the Steering Committee composed of members of the Future Internet Forum, and which includes the tasks carried out by WIT to establish the Secretariat in developing and maintaining the Web portal and in formalizing the Future Internet Forum.

On the 6th of October of 2008, the President of the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) represented the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education in the Ministerial Conference on the Future of the Internet held in Nice, France, under the French Presidency of the EU at the time of the conference “Internet of Things - Internet of the Future” which was held on 6-7 October, 2008.

The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) has also assured the participation of Portugal in various types of meetings, committees and events that have been taking place within the EU on aspects of Future Internet, an activity that it intends to continue and extend at a time when the launching of the open call on Future Internet by the European Commission in July 2010 is approaching.

Another aspect regarding the present and future evolution of the Internet is Internet Governance. The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) assures, through its President, the representation of Portugal in the GAC – Governmental Advisory Committee of the ICANN – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, as well as in the IGF – Internet Government Forum of the United Nations, and within the European Union in the HLIG – High Level Group on Internet Governance (see News of the Area of Action “International Relations” for information about their meetings).

In 2007, the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) promoted the involvement of Portugal in a particular aspect of Future Internet. One of the most promising technologies providing an open door to the Internet of Things is RFID – Radio Frequency Identification. This technology is considered mature and able to develop the Internet of Things and, thus, it is seen as an open door to this new stage of development of the Information Society which is obviously also developing based on other technologies for object identification and specification. RFID enables automatic wireless capture of identification and other data of objects carrying electronic tags which are similar to “electronic bar codes” and which may also contain additional information. When these tags are linked to data bases through sensors and communication networks, such as the Internet, this technology enables a powerful means of offering new services and applications, almost in any possible kind of environments.

The European Commission had already revealed forecasts for the number of computers by 2020 to be in the order of 1 billion, mobile communication systems users in the order of 5 billion, communication devices in the order of 10 billion, sensors in the order of 100 billion, and object identification tags in the order of 1 quadrillion, most of which will be interlinked through the Internet.

Although extremely far from these kinds of numbers, RFID is widely used in applications such as the Portuguese VIA VERDE system on motorways, tickets on urban transport systems, theft detection of merchandise in shops, book borrowing management systems in libraries, controlling access to premises, controlling the production and distribution chains of certain products, logistics, and opening and closing car doors without keys.

RFID has particular importance for current technological policies since it has been identified as an open door to the Internet of Things and because it has a very great chance of becoming a growth engine to increase jobs and, therefore, make a powerful contribution to the Lisbon Strategy, if the barriers which still make innovation difficult can be overcome and if a swift dissemination and use of this technology can be established.

For example, a recent study ordered by the German government identified the added value potential related to RFID in the production, business, transport and public and private services sectors to reach 62 billion Euros in 2010, in Germany alone, compared to 3 billion Euros in 2004.

The EU has been paying particular attention to the RFID area since 2006.

On the 15th of March of 2007, the Commission issued the Communication “Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in Europe: steps towards a policy framework”.

In the European Union Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council Meeting of 6-8 June 2007, there was the first exchange of views on RFID promoted by the German Presidency of the EU. At the time, Portugal requested that matters relating to R&D, innovation and economic competition, standardization and consumer protection also be considered in the Competiveness Council, and it also underlined the need to involve the Council of Justice and Internal Affairs in the debate over issues of privacy, protection and security of data, with the aim of accelerating the discussion process and supporting the development of RFID within the EU which is foreseen in the Communication of the Commission schedule for the middle of 2009.

On 25-26 of June 2007, the German Presidency, in cooperation with the European Commission, organized in Berlin the conference “RFID: Towards the internet of things” which had as its background paper the publication European Policy Outlook RFID. The closing session of this conference included a communication of the President of the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), Luis Magalhães, in name of the Secretary of State of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal, where the Conference and Exhibition "On RFID – The next step to THE INTERNET OF THINGS" (text in Portuguese), to be held in Lisbon on 15–16 November 2007, was announced along with the symbolic transfer of the testimonial from the Secretary of State in the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Bernd Pfaffenbach, to Luis Magalhães. 

The Communication of the European Commission issued on the 15th of March 2007 laid out many ways in which RFID had the potential to bring benefits to people, specifically:

  • Safety (e.g. food traceability, health care, anti-counterfeiting of drugs);
  • Convenience (e.g. shorter queues in supermarkets, more accurate and reliable handling of luggage in airports, automated payment of motorway tolls, car parks, etc.); 
  • Accessibility (e.g. for persons with disabilities).

In transport, RFID is expected to contribute to improved efficiency and security, and to provide new quality services for transportation of people and goods. In healthcare, RFID has the potential to increase the quality of care and patient safety, and to improve medication compliance and logistics. In commerce and retail, RFID could help to reduce supply shortages and theft. In many industries, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, entertainment, consumer electronics, luxury goods and car parts, it may allow products with defects or which are illegal to be recalled more efficiently. It is hoped that RFID tagging will improve the separation and recycling of materials and products, with the corresponding improved environmental protection and sustainable development.

RFID and the Internet of Things face challenges and opportunities which require extensive debate, such solutions that should be made available by the business and scientific community, public policies for the governance of shared resources (interoperability, standardization, radiofrequency spectrum harmonization, etc.), aspects requiring R&D contributions (specifically, new technologies for cost reduction of tags and sensors by using organic electronics, device miniaturization using nanotechnologies, reduction of energy consumption and new forms of production, reception and energy management), the needs for the training of technicians in sufficient numbers to assure future needs once the technology becomes more generally available, associated questions of competitiveness, pilot projects which should carry out large-scale tests on the integration of this technology within complex systems, the requirements of privacy and security which need to be adopted, and the new aspects of consumer protection which will be shown to be necessary.

At the EU Council of Ministers on November 23, 2007 (meeting of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers) and also at the EU Council of Ministers on Information Society on November 29, 2007 (meeting of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council) the Portuguese Presidency of the EU presented written information regarding the Internet of Things and RFID (On RFID – The next step to The Internet of Things) and provided information regarding the Conference and Exhibition  "On RFID – The next step to THE INTERNET OF THINGS" (text in Portuguese) which was held in Oeiras on 15-16 November 2007.

Last updated ( 24/10/2011 )