Telecoms, networks, multimedia
Interview with Bernard Odier, Sector Associate
Telecoms, networks, multimedia: fields facing an explosion of traffic and growing demand from users. Out of the institute's 170 teams, around 60 are working partially or fully within these sectors. In addition to its strategic partnership with Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, Inria is in contact with around fifty innovative SMEs as part of its technology transfer policy based on these topics, including both upstream contacts and projects at various stages of advancement. Interview with Bernard Odier, Technology Transfer Associate for telecoms, networks and multimedia.
What does your field cover?
Bernard Odier: The knowledge society is first and foremost the information and communication society, with infrastructures and content. On one hand, the telecoms world is undergoing a revolution with the explosion of mobile and Internet, which puts the methods and software tools for designing infrastructures at the heart of growth. On the other hand, this sector is driven by services and use. Multimedia thus involves all kinds of content: data, content from the digitisation of assets, images, the digital television sector and video games. More specifically, in telecoms, we work with major groups: equipment manufacturers, operators or integrators, and with several successful, innovative SMEs, particularly in the field of mobiles. For multimedia, our target is the myriad SMEs of the "digital economy", which are creating new products or content for the Web, traditional television broadcasters or WebTV broadcasters and the film industry.
Where do the technological barriers in telecoms lie?
Bernard Odier: The specificity of the telecoms sector lies in its monitoring by "local" regulators (for example, regulations associated with obtaining a radio licence in order to have the right to use part of the radio spectrum), international protocols and standards (to which Inria also contributes), and the obligation to optimise bandwidth resources. The explosion of digital content creates an initial barrier related to the saturation of existing networks and very high speed. To this end, Inria works on tools for simulating and optimising architectures and service quality. Other challenges involve application accelerators, network heterogeneity, etc. For example, how to deploy an application on 3G/4G, Wimax, and Wifi networks simultaneously. A final barrier involves future sensor networks, with the massive increase in numbers of IP addresses and the need to limit their energy consumption to a minimum in order to increase their autonomy. Inria is thus a member of an international consortium, initiated by Alcatel Lucent Bell Labs, Green Touch Initiative, in order to decrease the energy consumption of communication networks by a factor of 1000.
And what about multimedia networks?
Bernard Odier: Numerous solutions exist, but content providers do not always manage to get paid for their production, which is a general problem of the Web. Technologies making it possible to improve business models are thus key. For example, we are working on the on-the-fly recognition of the acronyms of a brand or a company through logos or even advertisements broadcast on a digital TV flow. Counting the number of visits will allow operators to bill the companies in question. Another method that could generate value for merchant websites is to segment usage and provide users with recommendations from other people like them. These topics are directly related to what is called "collaborative recommendation engines", by analogy with the "search engine" name.
How is Inria participating in the "mobile" revolution?
Bernard Odier: Smartphones are emerging as the new personal communication platform, for multiple uses, going far beyond conventional communication. Around fifty Inria teams are directly involved in the concepts and technologies that will make it possible to advance in this field. In order to structure this abundant ecosystem, Inria has initiated and is a sponsor of the Mobile Services Initiative, in partnership with competitiveness clusters, public research organisations, large companies, and innovative SMEs. A key point, which will fuel the development of new Smartphone applications, is access to data (particularly public data). Making data available to application developers is one of the ten actions of the initiative, particularly in connection with the Data Publica Project, supported by the French government.
How will these different fields develop over the next 5 to 10 years?
Bernard Odier: We have shifted from the notion of telecoms operator to service operator and, with the technologies of the semantic Web, we will evolve to the notion of content operator in years to come. More globally, the subject is the development of the Internet of the future. This "Internet of the future" will incorporate what is called the Internet of Objects (putting communicating objects of our daily life into contact), already in the start-up phase, which ties into the loop of new networks: sensor networks. In addition, the joint development of imaging and very high speed will permit the development of interactive television with very advanced techniques, including 3D. The challenge for technology transfer is being capable of creating value in the ecosystem currently being formed, based on the knowledge and technologies developed at Inria.