ITEA 4 is the Eureka Cluster on software innovation
ITEA 4 is the Eureka Cluster on software innovation
15 March 2001 · Source: CORDIS Website · Download PDF

Europe tries to steer course for embedded software

By Peter Clarke


A major European collaborative R&D program that includes many of the continent's leading systems companies amongst its founders, has published a roadmap for software-intensive systems that will be used to help direct about $3 billion of research spending.


The programme, known as ITEA, or Information Technology for European Advancement, is expected to have an eight-year life. But the group also expects the guide will help build consensus in Europe on standards and preferred technologies for the next ten to fifteen years in the programme's main focus: embedded and distributed systems.


By helping European companies to advance earlier it also hoped it will help attack a software productivity gap that is opening up and which is predicted to get much worse.


The roadmap 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 have already pitched in, saying that the roadmap is short on detail and does not make any choices between overlapping methods, protocols and applications, preferring instead just to list the many possible technologies.


However, the roadmap could still be significant because, although it does not contain strict timing and is more an expression of directions than a prediction of fact, it does illustrate a co-operative culture seeking to maximise European influence on component and tool suppliers in a number of areas.


ITEA was formed by Alcatel, Bosch, Bull, DaimlerChrysler, Italtel, Nokia, Philips, Siemens, Thales and Thomsom Multimedia, in July 1999 and has, so far, committed about $500 million on about 30 multi-company projects. Typically national governments fund half of the project costs for companies.


That the roadmap was launched on March 14 at the Design Automation and Test Europe (DATE) conference in Munich, was partly done to help co-ordinate its software-oriented activity with the hardware world, according to one of the authors of the roadmap. The DATE organisers also chose to theme the conference along the lines of automotive electronics and telecommunications, two of the embedded systems categories at which European companies hold world-class positions.


One of the initiative's overall goals is to limit Europe's reliance on US software; a goal which is perceived as being a key to job-creation and economic power in Europe.


Paul Mehring, head of telematics and strategic IT research at DaimlerChrysler and is chairman of the board of ITEA, explained why the European OEMs have chosen to come together: "Even DaimlerChrysler is not big enough to push through new standards on its own."


"We are going to make a big effort to push this road-map. The Netherlands and Finland are going to build national road-maps around this. We will push it through in every domain," he added.


"The roadmap classifies different types of software. 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," said Eric Daclin, vice-chairman of ITEA and formerly a senior researcher with Alcatel.


ITEA has chosen to try and pursue embedded and distributed systems in three applications domains initially - the home, the workplace and mobile - with the last one covering both automotive applications and mobile communications.


Mehring said there had been some discussion about whether mobile should be split into automotive and telephony domains but that the convergence being stimulated by digitisation of data was making such a move less necessary. Subsequent versions of the software roadmap further domains could be considered, Mehring said.


The roadmap core has been divided into four areas, content, infrastructure and basic services, human system interaction and underlying engineering.


During the roadmapping process about 120 discrete technologies or software approaches were reviewed and their position addressed with regard to various applications. The conclusion is that the technolgical environment will become more networked, more autonomous and increasingly self-organising.


The authors also concluded that the volume of data would rise faster than bandwidth capacity transporting it and would therefore fuel the need for new compression algorithms and ubiquitous storage.


Mehring said he hoped software and systems professionals would read the 150-page roadmap document and give the ITEA program feedback.


"ITEA is all about software but systems are based on hardware and we have a natural complement in another Eureka program, MEDEA+. We are already working with MEDEA to have co-ordinated projects," Mehring said. MEDEA+ is the Microelectronics Development for European Applications program that followed on from MEDEA and JESSI - the Joint European Sub-micron Semiconductor Initiative - in the 1990s.


As well as engaging with other European research programs and industry consortia, such as Eucar, Mehring said ITEA would try to engage with other regions. Daclin added: "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."


Mehring said that in the US one potential peer body could be the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Council (PITAC), set up in 1999 under President Bill Clinton.


Daclin said it was important that Europe understood what it wanted from technology and started to set the global agenda. "If we don't stand up for ourselves we are beaten before we start," he said.

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