19 March 2001 ·
Source: CORDIS Website · Download PDF
Europa steps into the breach
R&D Roadmap looks to address software productivity gap
Europa draws map for embedded systems, software
By Peter Clarke
MUNICH, GERMANY - A European collaborative R&D program founded by many of the continent's leading systems companies published a software road map last week that will help direct approximately $3 billion in future spending. The document, from the Information Technology for European Advancement group, also seeks to build consensus in Europe on standards and preferred technologies for embedded and distributed systems for the next 10 to 15 years.
The ITEA program intends to use the "Technology Roadmap for Software Intensive Systems" not only to direct collaborative research spending over the project's life span but also to help address a software productivity gap that is growing larger and is predicted to get worse.
The road map touches on most aspects of electronic systems, including operating systems for cars and mobile phones, future programming and development languages, methods for peer-to-peer networking and agent-based network transactions.
Detractors are already saying that the road map is short on detail and does not make any choices between overlapping methods, protocols and applications, preferring instead just to list them. Nor does it contain a strict timetable; the document is considered more an expression of direction than a prediction of fact.
Still, the 150-page road map could prove important in promoting a cooperative culture that seeks to maximize European influence on component and tool suppliers in a number of areas, observers said last week. One of the initiative's overall goals, perceived as a key to creating jobs and economic power in Europe, is to limit the continent's reliance on U.S. software
The road map was launched at the Design Automation and Test in Europe conference in Munich, in part to help coordinate ITEA's software-oriented activity with the hardware world, according to one of its authors. DATE organizers also chose as conference themes automotive electronics and telecommunications, two of the embedded-systems categories in which European companies hold world-class sway.
ITEA was formed in July 1999 by Alcatel, Bosch, Bull, DaimlerChrysler, Italtel, Nokia, Philips, Siemens, Thales and Thomson Multimedia, and has so far committed about $500 million to about 30 multicompany projects. National governments typically fund half a project's cost, with companies paying the rest.
"Even DaimlerChrysler is not big enough to push through new standards on its own," said Paul Mehring, the head of telematics and strategic IT research at DaimlerChrysler AG and chairman of the board at ITEA, explaining why many leading European OEMs have banded together.
'We don't [see] a European citadel. But if we don't stand
up for ourselves, we're beaten before we start.'
"We are going to make a big effort to push this road map," Mehring said. "The Netherlands and Finland are going to build national road maps around this. We will push it through in every domain."
The road map classifies different types of software, said Eric Daclin, vice chairman of ITEA and a former senior researcher with Alcatel. "By tying things together we get a much better idea of what happens if a particular technology lags. There are rendezvous you need to meet certain goals. It's not a measuring tool but it tells us where to apply research."
ITEA will try initially to pursue embedded and distributed systems in three applications domains - the home, the workplace, and mobile, with the latter covering both automotive applications as well as mobile communications.
Mehring said there was some discussion of splitting the mobile area into its two constituent markets, but that the convergence sparked by the digitization of data was making such a move less necessary. Subsequent versions of the software road map could consider further domains, he said.
The road map core has been divided into four areas: content; infrastructure and basic services; human-system interaction; and underlying engineering. To create the road map, its authors reviewed about 120 discrete technologies or software approaches and assessed their positions with regard to various applications. Their conclusion is that the technological environment will become more networked, more autonomous and increasingly self-organizing.
The authors also concluded that the volume of data will rise faster than the bandwidth capacity required to transport it, fueling the need for new compression algorithms and ubiquitous storage.
Mehring said he hoped software and systems professionals would read the bulky document and provide feedback to the ITEA program. The road map may be downloaded for free as a PDF file from the ITEA Web site, at www.itea-office.org/documents/itea_roadmap_download.htm.
"ITEA is all about software, but systems are based on hardware," said Mehring. Thus, the consortium finds "a natural complement," he said, in another another European program: Medea-plus, a follow-up to the original Microelectronics Development for European Applications (medea) program and to the Joint European Submicron Semiconductor Initiative of the 1990s.
"We are already working with Medea to have coordinated projects," Mehring said.
While working with other European research programs and industry consortia, Mehring said ITEA would try to engage with other regions as well. One potential peer body could be the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Council in the United States, set up in 1999 by President Clinton, he said.
"We don't think of a European citadel but we needed to have something to bring to them [other regions] before we could approach them," said Daclin.
Daclin said that it was important for Europe to understand what it wants from technology and to start to set the global agenda. "If we don't stand up for ourselves we are beaten before we start," he said.