Future internet to make Europe's systems smart and efficient: fewer traffic jams, lower emissions, better healthcare
Date: Mon, 11/23/2009 - 13:04
Less congested roads, better and more efficient energy delivery or state of the art medical treatment managed at home are typical examples made possible by the Internet of the Future. It will connect physical objects such as cars or mobile devices with infrastructures (for example traffic management systems), so that massive amounts of data can be used in real-time to improve their business process and efficiency
The European Commission recently unveiled a strategy to put Europe at the forefront when it comes to the development of smart internet-powered infrastructures. It calls on Europe's governments and its ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) sector to take advantage of the increasing demand for innovative applications of the internet to make existing infrastructures like healthcare systems, energy grids or traffic management 'smart'. To do this it will launch a partnership between public authorities and major ICT players with a budget for 2011-2013 of €300 million available for projects to be selected in the near future, to complement the €200 million yearly ICT support to ongoing research for underlying internet technology.
"The internet can help face the challenges of the future and holds the key to lifting Europe's economy out of the crisis. Online applications and technologies can improve transport in cities, which will soon house 70% of the world population. They can, and must, improve the systems that manage our energy, because electricity consumption will have doubled by 2030. And with an ageing EU population, the internet can make our health care systems more efficient and treat patients from afar," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "It is Europe and its businesses that should seize the opportunity and develop these technologies and applications which can tremendously increase the economic and social efficiency of day-to-day processes."
The European Commission proposed an EU-wide internet innovation strategy linking governments and different industry sectors across Europe. The strategy aims to improve key infrastructures to our economy and society by making them better able to process massive amounts of data in their daily tasks. Internet data traffic is today growing already by 60% every year. As the internet connects to billions of sensors and online mobile devices to deliver ever more sophisticated information, these infrastructures need to be 'smart' enough to use such huge amounts of data in real time. For example, through internet technology like sensors, smart tags, and, one day, the Galileo navigation satellite system, traffic jams, which cost Europe €135 billion a year, could be reduced by 20% and emissions by another 15%.
This plan aims to make Europe a leader in the research and roll out of future internet technologies needed to 'smarten up' infrastructures in areas affecting daily life like healthcare, transport, and energy. This will not only reinforce the competitiveness of Europe's ICT industry but European consumers will also be the first to benefit from new applications and services.
Smart systems are already being piloted in regions and cities throughout Europe. For example, Stockholm invested in a smart traffic management system which cuts travel time, boosts public transportation and reduces carbon emissions. Through the use of sensor networks and mobile devices (near) real time data can be collected which is key to managing energy or transportation systems. This information can then be used to optimise the urban mobility system for example. These wireless devices will also benefit from the extra spectrum provided by the digital dividend as they get widely deployed.
The Commission urged governments and industry to work together so that European research focuses further on key internet technologies and their fast application to daily life. The Commission will kick-start this public-private partnership with a call for proposals in 2010. Altogether, €300 million are planned for this initiative over the 2011-2013 period – a figure to be matched by industry.
The Commission is already funding research making the internet itself smarter, with €400 million invested in more than 90 European projects under its ICT research programme, and another €200 million a year to be invested from 2011-2013 research budgets. For instance, the SENSEI project works to connect the real and digital worlds creating "smart" places everywhere, like sending car-poolers a text message when there is a bus near that could get them to their destination quicker.
This Communication forms part of the preparations for a European plan for innovation and research, called for by the European Council in December 2008. It is also part of the Commission's response to the recommendations of the Aho Panel's call for European ICT research to become more risk-friendly and do more to commercialise its results.