Keeping Earth's technologies safe from space weather
Researchers worldwide are working to keep Earth's technologies safe from the threat of space weather. The latest researchers to join this effort are from the University of Leicester in the UK who have implemented a 'double pulse' radar-operating mode on two radars that are part of SuperDARN (Super Dual Auroral Radar Network), the international radar network for assessing the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Earth.
SuperDARN comprises 11 radars in the northern hemisphere and 7 in the southern hemisphere running in the High Frequency (HF) bands of between 8 and 22 megahertz (MHz). The radars allow observations of space weather that could wreak havoc on technologies on Earth.
'Intense space weather events are triggered by the explosive release of energy stored in the Sun's magnetic fields,' James D. Borderick of the Radio and Space Plasma Physics group at Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy said. 'A strong burst of electromagnetic energy reaches the Earth with the potential to disrupt many of our fundamental services, such as satellite and aviation operations, navigation, and electricity power grids.'
Space weather could have adverse impacts on telecommunications and information technology, according to Mr Borderick. 'All modern societies rely heavily on space systems for communications and resource information (meteorological, navigation and remote sensing),' he said. 'There are high costs and high risks associated with the consequences of space weather events, as insurance companies recognise.'
The researcher said the double pulse radar-operating mode was implemented on the group's Co-operative UK Twin Located Auroral Sounding System (CUTLASS) radars, which are located in Finland and Iceland. The CUTLASS system offers high time-resolution measurements of the ionospheric flow vectors.
'The new sounding mode enhances our temporal resolution of plasma irregularities within the ionosphere [the layer of the Earth's atmosphere that is ionised by solar radiation],' Mr Borderick explained. 'The resolution increase may help our understanding of coupling processes between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere [highly magnetised region] by allowing the observation of smaller scale phenomena with an unprecedented resolution.'
The researchers involved in this field of study are increasing their understanding of the phenomena associated with the Solar-Terrestrial interaction because they are using the new radar mode, as well as the ground-based and space-based instruments that are available, the Leicester researcher stated.
Researchers will one day be able to make 'accurate predictions of intense weather events and an active defence', Mr Borderick further noted.
This latest research highlights the significance of using ground-based measurements of the near space environment along with spacecraft observations. The results also draw attention to the direct influences of space weather on Earth's technological systems, according to the researcher.
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Europeans making mobile services easier
The Simple Mobile Services (SMS) project, funded under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) strand of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme to the tune of EUR 2.88 million, targeted the creation of modern tools that would make the lives of mobile users trouble-free. The outcomes are refreshing for the research sector and industry.
Unlike web services that change constantly, mobile applications are lacklustre at best. In order to move past the existing obstacles, the SMS partners have developed a platform and a suite of supporting tools to deliver a simpler alternative - one that will be equivalent to tools and services provided by the World Wide Web, including Web clients, Web servers, HTML, etc.
Not only is SMS easy to use, but it is also dependable and easy to set up. The system is currently being used with two of the world's top mobile phone operating systems: Windows Mobile and Symbian. The consortium is also mulling over plans to link the system with Apple's iPhone.
'We wanted to make our Simple Mobile Services platform open source and universal, so [users] do not depend exclusively on service providers,' Dr Nicola Blefari-Melazzi, who coordinated the project, told ICT Results.
According to the consortium, the only thing that companies wishing to use the SMS system have to do is set up a server in their IT department. SMS can be used by anyone because the system works with or without network operators.
An obstacle currently hampering mobile services is how network operators control the available technology. The end result is incompatible systems that users must re-learn each time they change operator, the partners said.
One of the tools developed by SMS is Mobile Electronic Memos (MEMs). These electronic notes allow users to obtain information about services, people, websites, etc, as well as to exchange information with others.
The partners said the users are able to obtain, annotate and store MEMs that are associated with their current environment. Case in point is how users can 'capture' a business card of a colleague or associate. The users could also capture a MEM generated by a service they are using, including the confirmation of an airline booking, for example.
Mobile, Open and Very Easy (MOVE) is another technology developed by SMS. MOVE is a browser for mobile services running on mobile devices. Users have access to services based on their profile and current context like location and time.
Another innovative tool is SIM-based security. For instance, SMS partners Sagem Orga GmbH (Germany) and Telecom Italia developed verification and certificate systems that are hardwired to the SIM card in users' phones and provide solid security support to authenticate MEMs.
The consortium tested the platform with 100 students at the University of Roma II in Italy. The students were able to keep each other informed about class cancellations or changes, and exchange ideas and information.
With the positive feedback obtained since the project ended last February, businesses have already expressed an interest in using the SMS system. The consortium is currently exploring options for commercial use of the product.
'We want to build an open-source developer community around the technology, and of course we would be interested in talking to anyone who is interested in our work,' Dr Blefari-Melazzi said.
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EU-funded project links researchers in the Black Sea region with GÉANT
On 17 March the European Commission launched the Black Sea Interconnection (BSI) project, a research and education network linking countries in the South Caucasus with the high-bandwidth, pan-European GÉANT network. The two-year project, coordinated by the Turkish National Research and Education Network (TÜBITAK-ULAKBIM), connects regional research networks in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia and is funded with EUR 1.4 million through the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Armenian and Georgian scientists are involved in several European research collaborations, including scientific resource-sharing infrastructures (grids), the Large Hadron Collider (the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator) and environmental monitoring of the Black Sea. But the region's current infrastructure is unable to keep up with the scientific community's increasing demands for connectivity and need for high capacity.
Large databanks and massive processing power are needed to conduct advanced research, for example predicting and managing epidemics, decoding genetic information or simulating energy demands. Through its connection to the GÉANT network, BSI now provides researchers in the South Caucasus with access to scientific resources in Europe and the massive data processing capacity they need to carry out cutting-edge research.
GÉANT2, the high-bandwidth academic network serving Europe's research and education community, connects some 30 million researchers in 34 countries. It links Europe with networks in Central Asia, the Asia Pacific region, Latin America, South Africa, the US and Canada. GÉANT also enables access to remote resources (such as telescopes) that are sometimes too costly for a single country to develop.
BSI connects 377 universities and research institutes in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the GÉANT network with significantly improved speed (from a minimum of 34 to 100 Megabits per second, Mbps). Now, advanced services such as internet protocol 6 (a potentially unlimited source of internet addresses) and multicast, which allows for smoother video streaming, will be possible. According to the Commission, this represents a 'quantum-leap in terms of performance and international connectivity made available to the science and research community in the Southern Caucasus'.
According to Armenian Prime Minister Mr Tigran Sargsyan, 'Our researchers and students have previously found their efforts at collaboration hampered by a lack of high-speed connectivity within the region, and vitally to Europe. IT development is the most important task to achieve the Armenian government's primary goal of the national economy being driven by science and modern technology. The BSI project will provide the infrastructure we need to share knowledge amongst our peers, to enlarge scientific research collaboration and bring new technology and science to Armenia.'
BSI allows universities to use advanced communication for better scientific collaboration and will make new research tools available to scientists in the Black Sea region. Importantly, participating national networks and local universities will provide training and support to the region's schools, which in many cases do not have the background necessary to operate a local school network.
Georgian Vice Prime Minister George Baramidze said, 'BSI is the most important step in the last few years to integrate the Georgian research and education community in Europe. It will make it possible for Georgian scientists to run complex applications such as GRID computing and provide access to world-class experiments like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.'
'By investing EUR 1.4 million funding in this project, we will bridge a major digital divide by connecting scientists from the Black Sea region to the global research community, providing high speed internet connections to universities and research centres in the South Caucasus,' said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. 'I expect better collaboration with GÉANT's 4,000 EU research institutions will lead to better research and better results in Europe and beyond.'
Azerbaijan Minister of Telecommunication and IT Professor Ali Abasov stated, 'The BSI project is of crucial importance for our scientific community [...] whose needs are growing rapidly. BSI is a much-needed complementary contribution to our country's ICT strategy, which is the realisation of President Ilham Aliev's vision to make ICT the second most important area of our economy, after oil.'
Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, added that BSI should also make possible a 'collaborative infrastructure that also supports the future introduction of new online services such as e-Government, e-Business, e-Health and the use of information and communication technology in education benefiting society as a whole.'
GÉANT is a global leader in research networking owing to its hyper-fast technology and use of 'dark fibre' for individual high-speed links to advanced research communities. BSI stems from an earlier EU-funded project, 'Porta Optica' and replaces the NATO-funded 'Virtual Silk Highway'.
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CHORIST project targets improved rescue safety and communication systems
Natural hazards and industrial accidents wreak havoc on people's lives, and the lack of appropriate emergency management or planning can trigger human, environmental and financial losses. The EU-funded CHORIST ('Integrating communications for enhanced environmental risk management and citizens safety') project seeks to increase the rapidity and effectiveness of interventions following a natural or industrial disaster, thus optimising people's safety and communications between rescuers.
The 17-member consortium will launch a demonstration of the project's prototypes on 26 and 27 March in Barcelona, Spain. Supported under the Information Society Technologies (IST) Theme of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), CHORIST received more than EUR 7 million in funding.
While the existing tools for the management of environmental risk events at the European level work adequately, experts say they can be improved. For instance, communication between citizens, public safety actors and authorities should be more reliable. For the CHORIST partners, this means creating and implementing alert systems that warn authorities, as well as deploying an emergency telecommunication system for public safety responders.
According to Patrice Simon, Research and Technology project manager at the Defence and Security Division of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS DS), the common operational picture of natural hazards and industrial risks are managed separately, risk by risk. 'In CHORIST, we've merged all this information into a single picture readable by non-specialists.'
Nowadays warnings to the population are mainly sent through the media. This means that journalists are in the information chain between the authorities and the population.
'In CHORIST, we've integrated several channels to warn the population in parallel through several means like radio, TV, cell broadcast, sirens, and we've removed any human interference with the transmission of information from the authorities to the population,' Mr Simon said. While rapidly deployable networks are focusing on voice and SMS (short message service), the CHORIST partners have been 'working on providing video and large data files transfers to first responders', he explained.
CHORIST is a collaborative effort involving research centres, academia and industry. 'Everyone's experience helped develop and run the proposal,' the EADS DS project manager said. 'This experience was gained during the many years when these participants worked on their own topics.' From an industry standpoint, as Mr Simon noted, the small and large enterprises lead the activities involved in CHORIST. 'The project allowed these people and these ideas to be put around the same table,' he explained.
Those expected to benefit the most from this study, according to Mr Simon, are 'the authorities managing the disasters as civil protection, the fire brigades and police who are split in field teams acting in the front, and managing teams operating from behind, as well as the population indirectly, and the actors of the project', who will improve their tools and know-how.
As for what lies ahead, Mr Simon said CHORIST should focus on two systems: situation awareness and rapid deployment. 'I believe that the warning systems have to be tested in large-scale scenarios,' he said.
While it is difficult to clearly see what's in store for the future, Mr Simon is considering the enhancement of professional mobile radio networks being installed today with high data-rate facilities for public safety. 'This implies the big industries that built these networks will propose and sell these solutions,' Mr Simon remarked. And there are certainly many third parties who will benefit from the so called IP pipes - the high-speed Internet Protocol backbones capable of providing high bandwidth and reliable communications to develop and sell applications for groups - that can only be addressed by small, local enterprises.
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Europe must raise its game to become world leader in ICTs, Commission says
If Europe is to become a world leader in information and communications technologies (ICTs), it must double its research investments, attract more skilled workers and remove barriers to business growth, according to a new European Commission communication; the strategy described also aims to ensure that the economy and society benefit fully from these new technologies.
The global ICT market is worth some EUR 2,000 billion and is growing at 4% per year. Within Europe, ICTs account for 6% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and generate 12 million jobs. On the research front, a quarter of all private R&D funding is spent on ICTs.
However, Europe is still lagging behind the international competition; America's businesses spend twice as much on ICT research and development (R&D) as their European counterparts. Furthermore, Europe is currently suffering from a shortage of skilled ICT researchers, due partly to the fact that Europe is home to very few centres of excellence in ICT research. This means that the best people, and the bulk of private research funds, tend to go elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Europe excels in a number of ICT fields, including telecoms equipment and services, robotics, security technologies and photonics, as well as being a world leader in applications such as telemedicine, aerospace electronics and embedded ICTs.
Looking to the future, the communication states that Europe should take the lead in developing the future internet, as well as the next generation of ICT components and systems, seizing new opportunities in nanoelectronics, photonics and organic electronics. Europe should also pioneer the use of ICTs in health systems, energy efficiency and safety and security in buildings and transport.
The new strategy sets out a three-pronged approach to tackling these problems. Firstly, investments in ICT R&D must be doubled by 2020. Annual spending on ICT R&D under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) is set to rise from EUR 1.1 billion in 2010 to EUR 1.7 billion in 2013, and the Commission invites Member States to match this budget increase in their national research programmes.
Among other things, the Commission pledges to set up platforms for more intensive dialogues between investors and ICT innovators. It also states its intention to increase the involvement of SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) in its own research programmes.
Member States are also encouraged to make greater use of public procurement as a tool for promoting innovation in the ICT sector.
The second path of action outlined in the strategy calls for greater collaboration between the EU, Member States, regions, industry and academia. 'Europe needs to better coordinate its policies and concentrate and specialise its resources, not least for the emergence of world-class poles of ICT excellence in Europe,' the strategy reads. In other words, the diverse stakeholders involved in funding and carrying out ICT research need to pool resources and work according to a common European strategy.
Finally, the strategy notes that ICT companies need the right conditions to grow and develop. Here, the public sector can drive innovation by ensuring that ICTs are fully exploited in all public services.
To support this work, the EU is investigating how best to support pan-European projects covering the entire cycle from R&D to deployment. These projects will build on lessons learnt through public-private partnerships and the Lead Market Initiative, for example. They could cover issues such as the use of ICTs in healthcare, ICT solutions for energy efficiency, or an electronic identity management system.
'The strategy should open markets with clearer demands from users, allowing for shorter innovation cycles, faster responses to socioeconomic challenges and new opportunities for industry in Europe,' the communication concludes. 'It should result in more rapid returns on investments and thus greater attractiveness of Europe for investors, companies and researchers.'
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LUNA smooths out speech recognition
'Say Accounts if you want to speak to someone about your account'; 'Say Credit if you want to speak to someone about your credit card'. Do these statements sound familiar? If you conduct your personal business via telephones, they should. Although it saves you time and effort, automated speech recognition has its limitations. Wouldn't it be great if you could tell the service exactly what you want quickly and succinctly?
The EU-funded LUNA project, funded under the Sixth Framework Programme with EUR 2.61 million, is raising the level of intelligence of automatic systems up to 'Spoken Language Understanding' (SLU). The three-year project is tackling real-time understanding of spontaneous speech in the context of advanced telecom services.
LUNA's project partners, led by Ms Silvia Mosso from the Italian speech technology group Loquendo, are seeking to create a robust natural spoken language understanding toolkit for multilingual services that can carry out human-computer communication with increased user satisfaction.
LUNA is tackling a number of issues by targeting language modelling for speech understanding; semantic modelling for speech understanding; automatic learning; robustness issues for SLU; and multilingual portability of SLU components.
According to the researchers, SLU is more advanced than the traditional interactive voice response (IVR) systems that most people are familiar with. With IVRs, the user must respond to questions with specific words or short sentences proposed by the systems.
LUNA will improve on the existing automated telephone systems by the development of menu-driven voice recognition that will result in unconstrained speech and more spontaneous interactions between humans and machines. Ultimately, LUNA will reinforce the experiences of the users.
'We had to spend a lot of time initially recording spontaneous conversations between people and between people and machines,' Ms Mosso told ICT Results. 'This is called the corpora, the collection of words and phrases that gives the software its basic language. Then, researchers have to annotate the terms in a way that machines can understand, and finally they apply statistical language models,' she explained. 'You can say things like "I have a problem with my printer" and it will help you go through the options.'
The researchers believe this system will help people interact in a more natural and smoother manner. The successful applications of this project will generate faster and more productive interactions with service centres.
'The advantage with these areas is that you can apply our work to any kind of help centre,' the project coordinator said. 'But if you want to apply it to different areas, then you need to do the initial collection of the conversations, the corpora, again.'
From a business angle, the researchers said LUNA's work is guaranteed practical use and France Telecom and Italy's CSI Piemonte (the Piedmont Consortium for Information Systems) are on board.
From an academic/research perspective, the RWTH Aachen University in Germany, the Université d'Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse in France, the University of Trento in Italy, the Warsaw-based Polish-Japanese Institute of Information Technology, and the Institute of Computer Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences are participating in LUNA.
The researchers said the project's results will fuel competition among the industrial partners who will be able to use them directly and launch them on the speech technologies market.
LUNA has already developed the most advanced SLU for the Italian and Polish languages. Ms Mosso highlighted the fact that the team will be 'refining the systems over the last months of the project', which is set to end next September.
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Are laser printers a health hazard?
Could the humble laser printer be responsible for poor health among office workers? These printers, it has been said, could be to blame for the release of tiny particles of toner-like material into the air. These particles would then be inhaled by consumers deep into their lungs, triggering health-related problems. Now scientists investigating this preconception have come up with surprising results.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute (WKI) in Braunschweig, Germany, have teamed up with scientists from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, to investigate the controversial topic of whether laser printers emit pathogenic toner particles into the air. Their results are not what anyone expected.
Past studies have shown that indoor particle levels in office air increased as much as five-fold during work hours due to printer use. It was assumed that printers emitted more particles when operating with new toner cartridges, and when printing graphics and images that require greater toner quantities.
Contrary to earlier reports, the team discovered that laser printers released hardly any particles of toner into the air. Professor Tunga Salthammer, WKI department head, said: 'What some printers do emit are ultra-fine particles made of volatile organic-chemical substances. One essential property of these ultra-fine particles is their volatility, which indicates that we are not looking at toner dust.'
This discovery spurred them on in their search for the source of these ultra-fine particles. To do this, they developed a process that allowed them to resolve and compare the quantity, size and chemical composition of the emitted particles. To assist them in their research, they turned to the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (BITKOM), which provided the team with financial and technical support.
What the researchers also discovered was that the latest generation of printers that 'print' without paper or toner also produce these particles. 'The amazing thing is that the ultra-fine particles are still produced even in this case. The cause is the fixing unit - a component that heats up as high as 220°C during the printing process in order to fix the toner particles on the paper,' WKI scientist Dr Michael Wensing explained.
To test their results and to ensure no outside contamination, the printers used were housed in a test chamber whose size varied according to the dimensions of the test printers. Particle analysers were then used to count the particles and measure their size distribution.
The researchers found that the high temperatures that were generated caused volatile substances, such as paraffins and silicon oils, to evaporate; these would then accumulate as ultra-fine particles. Similar particles are also created in comparable conditions in the kitchen, the team said. Simple household activities like cooking, baking, or even making toast were responsible for the proliferation of these particles.
While filters are available to reduce the particles from escaping from printers, the scientists question their effectiveness. 'Our investigations show that the various external filters on offer for printers operate in very different ways. As the ultra-fine particles are not emitted from a specific part of the printer, but also from the paper output, for instance, a filter can only have a limited effect,' Dr Wensing said.
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Open access broadband picks up speed
NYnet, public-private partnership based in Yorkshire, UK, hopes to overcome the challenge posed by rural and coastal areas in the area of broadband and connectivity. The project represents Europe's largest public-sector led, open-access, broadband infrastructure initiative. Now, a Wetherby telecommunications company has been selected as a partner as part of a major initiative to deliver super-fast broadband services to businesses in North Yorkshire. This will offer a major boost to regional SMEs.
Rural regions across Europe seem to face similar challenges: capital cities always seem to soak up the technological advances well before they have a chance to spread further. The rural communities of North Yorkshire in England are no different. Many towns have little or no access to high-speed broadband. NYnet was established to change that. It provides higher-quality and faster broadband to the public sector and will also hopefully improve services for public organisations such as schools, universities and council offices across the whole of North Yorkshire.
NYnet is an EU-funded collaboration between North Yorkshire County Council and Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency charged with improving the Yorkshire and Humber economy. Its aim is to create a world-class, high-speed communications infrastructure capable of delivering multiple high-quality services to both homes and organisations in the county.
So important is the project that the Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary and MP for Richmond, William Hague, has given a public statement of support to Yorkshire's NYnet project.
'In today's society the Internet has become indispensible, especially in business. Before the creation of NYnet, internet service providers deemed it too expensive to provide next-generation internet services in North Yorkshire. However, NYnet has established a new, high-quality telecommunications network previously unavailable in the region. It aims to assist in the provision of affordable, high-speed, next-generation internet access to homes and businesses which will benefit the region both economically and socially.'
NYnet views the partnership with the Wetherby telecommunications company as a major step forward. David Cullen, CEO of NYnet, commented: 'NYnet is very excited about working with a channel partner such as Excel Telecom because they provide the business-to-business services which are much needed for the largely underserved SME market in North Yorkshire. NYnet offers such partners better, faster and cheaper connectivity, which means Excel is better able to provide cost-effective, next-generation technology solutions that deliver real benefits to businesses. Through this initiative, NYnet, Excel and the businesses served can jointly make a truly positive impact on the economic development of the sub-region.'
Excel Telecom will support the NYnet project, which has recently installed a fibre-optic network infrastructure throughout the county, by providing the technology that will integrate the new service into business premises. This partnership forms part of Excel Telecom's wider strategy of delivering next-generation broadband and telephony services throughout North Yorkshire.
The collaboration of public sector and private enterprise in this venture creates a major opportunity to meet the challenge of ensuring a socially inclusive approach to all North Yorkshire citizens as both businesses and public sector move towards more digital services. By partnering with carefully selected commercial organisations, the NYnet core network will offer public sector bodies in North Yorkshire an early opportunity to deliver sophisticated broadband solutions both to employees and citizens.
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The future of telecommunications has come one step closer thanks to the ROCKET project, funded under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project aims to provide a wireless solution that will increase bandwidth availability for consumers and increase efficiency. ROCKET received EUR 3 million of EU funding out of the total project cost of EUR 4.34 million.
Mobile phones have almost become as commonplace as fixed-line phones. Indeed, in many developing countries the cost of laying fixed lines is so high that they are instead turning to mobile telephony. In Europe, mobile phones and wireless data transfers for computers are increasing in use and their day-to-day applications are expanding exponentially. This is why Europe urgently needs to look at what can be done now to realise the future needs of mobile networks.
The ROCKET project will do just that. The project partners will focus their efforts on two new technologies that they believe will be key to the future: Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) mobile networks. WiMax technology provides for the wireless transmission of data using a variety of transmission modes. While LTE refers to the new mobile network standard that is being developed, experts believe that this will be a class above what is available today.
What the project specifically aims to do is to exploit underused radio spectrum frequencies. They want to give a level of autonomy to mobile terminals and base stations, which will be able to detect whether it is possible to make use of these underused frequencies at their location to increase the speed of information transmission.
The second part of the project intends to realise the implementation of relay terminals that will hopefully boost the performance of wireless networks significantly. This they believe can be done without the need to increase the number of large, expensive installations on the roofs of buildings, since these small relay terminals could be easily installed on traffic signals or street lights.
The project experts also consider that in some cases the mobile telephones and laptop computers of users could themselves act as relays. This would also lead to fewer problems related to limited access.
In more technical terms, these actions will lead to the creation of reconfigurable OFDMA Cooperative Networks enabled by agile-spectrum use. It is envisioned that this will enable bit rates higher that 100Mbps with peak throughputs higher than 1Gbps.
Beneficiaries will include all applications requiring a high transmission speed in mobile environments. This includes internet content downloads, online video games, television on mobile telephones, video calls, etc. The terminals that will benefit most from this new technology, however, will be pocket computers and notebooks, as well as electronic organisers and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).
The project includes nine research institutions from all over Europe, including Czech Technical University (Czech Republic), the University of Aachen (Germany), the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, (Spain) and the University of Surrey (United Kingdom).
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Space ministers give green light to new programmes
Europe's space ministers are backing a range of new and existing initiatives that give Europe the opportunity to enhance its role in space and use space applications to respond more effectively to global challenges such as climate change and security issues.
The ministers met at the Council Meeting at Ministerial Level of the European Space Agency (ESA), which took place in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 25 and 26 November. During the meeting, the ministers, from ESA's 18 Member States plus Canada, adopted four resolutions. Among other topics, these covered the role of space in delivering Europe's global objectives and established the level of resources for ESA's space science programmes and basic activities for the period from 2009 to 2013. The ministers also approved the continuation of a number of ongoing optional programmes and the initiation of new programmes.
'Through this meeting, the ESA Ministers have seized the opportunity to capitalise on the recent successes and achievements of Europe in space and to translate the political impetus into new programmes able to deliver knowledge, services and competitiveness,' reads an ESA statement on the outcomes of the meeting.
The ministers gave the green light to a wide range of scientific initiatives. These include the organisation's subscriptions for the human spaceflight, microgravity and human exploration programmes, including the use of the International Space Station (ISS). Period 3 of the 'European programme for life and physical sciences' (ELIPS) foresees extensive use of the Columbus laboratory on the ISS to seek answers in space to fundamental questions in life and physical sciences.
There is a strong focus on applied research, covering areas such as the development of diagnostics and treatments for age-related diseases, as well as industry-driven research and development projects in aerospace, energy and biotechnology.
The ministers also renewed their subscription for the 'Advanced research in telecommunications systems' (ARTES) programme. This focuses on the development and demonstration of technologies for a European Data Relay System, an air traffic management system and an integrated system combining telecommunications, Earth observation and navigation satellite systems with terrestrial information and communications systems.
Finally, the ministers approved ESA's subscriptions for the programme behind the European Global Navigation Satellite System, which is set to work on improvements to the Galileo system.
The new budget for the ESA reflects a substantial increase over previous years. Member States reportedly agreed on a EUR 10 thousand million figure to cover the next three to five years.
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