VISIONS

Telecom Italia’s Future Centre, based in the sixteenth-century convent of San Salvador in Venice, is meant to combine past and future with a specific focus on Cultural Heritage and Digital Lifestyle. The Centre hosts higher education services, as well as specialized laboratories, and  international cross-field project teams, also in cooperation with prestigious universities such as the Ca' Foscari University of Venice and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL),

The Future Centre’s mission involves to study and develop solutions for Smart Cities, pertaining to cultural and touristic environment. Such an approach is willing to improve both artistic, cultural and environmental heritage, in order to promote innovative paths to visit our cities. By the way, study and analysis models arise mainly from Venice itself.

Going from digital rebuilding up to smart environments, passing through interactive and multimedia design and estimation of handy pieces of art, including the creation of tourist spots based upon augmented reality and NFC technology, switching then to the analysis of Big Data and the definition of a Cultural City: these are some of the items and paths carried out at Telecom Italia’s Future Centre.

 

invalid link: http://www.telecomitalia.com/content/tiportal/en/futurecentre/about-us1/people/antonio-manzalini.htmlAntonio Manzalini

Towards 5G: the “Nervous System” of the Digital Society

Towards 5G: the “Nervous System” of the Digital Society

The 5G (Fifth Generation) infrastructure, expected by 2020, will be radically different from the current 4G networks. In fact, it is not just an increase of bandwidth, better performance and improved reliability: 5G will be become a sort of "nervous system" of Digital Society. With 5G, the huge amount of data collected by the sensors, more and more diffused in our reality, elaboratedby the Cloud and Fog / Edge Computing, will be transformed into a variety of new "cognitive" services, which will make the terminals of the future (imagine also, drones, robots, self-driving cars, etc.) a true extension of the socio-economic nervous system of society.

This coming transformation is currently under the spot not only in the Academic context but even in the Industrial ecosystems. This is clearly evident both in the forums and bodies that deal with technologies such as Software Defined Networks (SDN), Cloud and Fog / Edge Computing, Network Virtualization Function (NFV), etc., and in the market movements. It is widely believed that the 5G infrastructure will become the expression of the technical and economic maturity of a number of trends such as the growth and diffusion of the ultra-broadband fixed and mobile, increasing the performance of IT systems (intertwined with the simultaneous costs reduction of chipsets) and the development of more and more powerful terminals. The way the networkis used and perceived will dramatically change.

5G will enable the development of new service scenarios and new opportunities for their entertainment network. For example, it will allow to control remotely advanced robotic systems (with complex cognitive capabilities andhigh characteristics of autonomy, also in unstructured environments). This for applicationsfor both industry, agricultureand social contexts (for example the Smart City of the future). Today, the local computing power of a robot is not enough (for reason of consumption, space, dissipation, etc.) to implement strong cognitive characteristics of autonomy: tomorrow, thanks to 5G, it will be possible to make use of solutions of Cloud Robotics, which offer the huge amount of resources, at low cost through Cloud/Edge Computing. In fact, with the 5G, the data collected from the several sensors of robotic systems, thanks to high bandwidth connections with very low latency, will be transmitted where there are adequate computing power and memory resources (with a proper balance centralization - distribution); this data will be then quickly transformed  in cognitive "decisions", transferred back locally and actuated by the robot within a few milliseconds (ms). It will be possible, for example, to perform highly accurate operations at a distance, to optimize real-time control of any transportation system, manage business processes in a highly dynamic and flexible manner.

5G therefore will assume the characteristics of a powerful highly distributed computing platform, with connections (both fixed and mobile) characterized by high capacity and extremely low latency (in the order of a few units of milliseconds). Flexibility and programmability (via API) will be two of the other main features of 5G. Already, the potential introduction of network solutions based on SDN and NFV is moving in this direction, for example by decoupling hardware and software in equipment and by virtualizing any network functions (not just the so-called middle-box, but also the levels 2 and 3 of the network). These models allow high energy savings, improved performance, ease of deployment and other costs saving (with consequent reductions of CAPEX and OPEX). In this sense, one of the main business impacts will be the lowering of the threshold for new Operators and Service Providers to enter the market: in fact, SDN and NFV principles are already moving the competition from hardware to software platforms.

In summary, the development of more and more complex cognitive capabilities through advances terminals (increasingly powerful and sophisticated) attached at the edges of the 5G infrastructure, offer interesting opportunities not only to automate processes and optimize costs, but also to develop new service scenarios (Cognition as-a-Service). OTT are already moving in this direction (for example, though the acquisition of start-ups dealing with drones, robotics, self-driving cars, and the increasing investments in cognitiveapplications developments).

The Operators may play new roles taking the competitive advantage of being able to orchestrated dynamically the huge computing and memory power of 5G - from centralized big data centers to exchanges (which could become just like mini-data centers in the PoP) which are closer to Users: this will determine a radical optimization of the performance (due to latency minimization) when provisioning new cognitive services.

Eventually, 5G will be like a massively dense distributed computational system. Space-time dimensions of Digital Society will be morphed by the 5G faster access and larger bandwidth (increase of 2-3 orders of magnitude), being its exploitation as a “nervous system” the techno-economic game changer.

 

Marco De Bortoli
Elisabetta Salvati

Self Driving Cars

Self Driving Cars

The field of autonomous guided vehicles (also known as SDC, Self Driving Car)  is recently having a significant acceleration in relation both to the positive results obtained from the tests in the field to both technical and economic advantages that these solutions can provide (reducing accidents, energy saving, pollution reduction, active use of the time spent driving, new business opportunity and so on).
The success of this disruptive technology will revolutionize the automotive industry in two main directions:

  • from a technological point of view with the integration of typical components of the field of autonomous robotics,
  • from a business model point of view transforming a market-oriented product in a market-oriented services.

For these reasons at SDC development are interested  not only the traditional car makers but also OTT, universities, start- up and service providers.
Despite some obstacles remain to be resolved, such as the regulations, some analysts predict that the first applications of SDC will arrive already in 2020 (for example in the motorway from toll to toll) while for the mass market introduction of SDC is foresee the date of 2030.

 

invalid link: http://www.telecomitalia.com/content/tiportal/en/futurecentre/about-us1/people/katia-colucci.htmlKatia Colucci

Virtual Currencies

Virtual Currencies

The virtual currency world has existed for many decades and includes types of coins with very different characteristics, each of them working according to its own rules, which may differ significantly from the working schemes of the other virtual currencies. A virtual currency circulates on volunteered basis through a reference community as means of payment in exchanging goods, virtual or real; they may or may not have a connection with a real currency (such as Euro, Dollar or Pound) in accordance with the rules of the scheme defined by the issuing entity.

If we exclude the virtual currencies used in online games, and those used as a mechanism of reward (e.g., BeDollar issued by Vodafone), whose connection with the real economy is very slack, the most important place is held by those virtual currencies that have the aim to be used as a means of payment complementary or alternative to a real currency at a given exchange rate.

Until 2009, this group was made up mostly of local currencies that work at the local level to promote local economic development. They are usually issued and distributed to the members of the community in accordance with the rules and forms (e.g., printed or electronic) decided by the issuing institution (in general non-profit organizations).

The local virtual currencies, albeit with different working schemes, are intended to be an engine for the development of local or regional economies, particularly in periods of economic crisis, as a tool that facilitates trade and encourage consumption leveraging on several factors:

  • Usually, discounts and bonuses are offered to people: this encourages the use of these coins for their purchases as it increases their purchasing power;

  • To encourage the circulation of money in general any interest provided on the stock of money is not applied (even if it is deposited in a bank); in some cases, even a negative interest is enforced ("demurrage") that the holder of the deposit must pay if the balance exceeds a predetermined amount;

  • The currency is accepted only locally fueling the local turnover.

Currently there are hundreds of local currencies, but, although they are now very numerous and geographically scattered through the world, they don’t have a significant impact on the traditional payment system.

This situation changed in 2009, when an anonymous, under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, created a virtual currency called Bitcoin (BTC), which represents a disruption novelty in the virtual currency world.

The first element of novelty is that it is digitally created, not by a central body, but in a distributed way by the "Bitcoin network" through the so-called extraction, or "mining", activity: the computers that join the Bitcoin network (nodes), are called to solve cryptographic problems (thus, it is defined as cryptocurrency) that periodically, usually every ten minutes, the network generates; the first node that solves it is awarded a block of BTC "fresh coinage." Up to now more than half of the total amount of mineable BTC, which is 21 million, have been mined.

BTC can be used to buy goods or services or exchanged with real currencies at an exchange rate that varies according to the demand and supply mechanism.

Another key feature is that the currency is traded between users in a digital and anonymous way: this allows the circulation of BTC through the network quickly, without geographical constraints and costly transfer fees.

Thanks to these characteristics Bitcoin began to be used by a growing number of users passing soon the USA boundaries and becoming a world currency with a turnover that is counted in billions of dollars.

The success of Bitcoin has probably exceeded the expectations of Its creators, to the point that if the first BTC were exchanged for a few cents, its growing popularity has pushed up the price that now is around $ 500, but in the end of 2013 it reached peaks of $ 1.200.

Today, a growing number of people are using Bitcoin as payment for goods also of great value and Bitcoin is accepted by hundreds of merchants; also, there are hundreds of companies that offer auxiliary services (such as exchange services, or wallet that offer storage services). In other words there is a growing real Bitcoin ecosystem populated also by developers of Apps, Venture Capitalist and non-profit foundations who devote themselves to the spread of this currency.

Many other cryptocurrencies (up-to-now they are more than 400) were created building on the success of Bitcoin, but at the moment none has reached the popularity of its “ancestor”.

Thus, it is understandable why Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies do not represent a parallel world to the real economy, but they are strongly connected: cryptocurrencies in fact impact the real economy with additional money available for transactions. Therefore, if the amount of cryptocurrencies introduced will be relevant in terms of equivalent value in real currency and they will be of widespread use, they could pose serious issues to monetary and fiscal policies and for the protection of citizens and small investors.

Therefore, cryptocurrencies and in particular Bitcoin are ending up under the magnifying glass not only of financial institutions, governments and media, but also of companies and investors who are foreseeing promising business opportunities.

 

Antonello Gargiulo
Elisabetta Salvati

3D Printing

3D Printing

3D printing world is growing at an extremely hurried pace.

Within 2017, the number of printers to be sold worldwide is expected to rise up to one million, (Gartner, 2013), mainly targeting the Consumer market, at an average price between 1,000 and 2,500 dollars per unit. This way, 3D printers are meant to become a very accessible goal for a wide range of customers.

Such data are enlightening the 3D phenomenon as a strong mass-market driver. How far ? Quite boundless.

Immediate access to the object of desire, at a very affordable cost (which are meant to decrease consistently) besides an increasing unbending customer satisfaction: these are the leverages fostering some pervasive use of the "copied" objects, better said  3D reshaped objects, in the unexpected scenario of a renewed economic growth. Whereas manufacture chain-production may be completely twisted upside down.

In fact,3D printing is meant to rebuild objects, which can be widely customized according to almost any desire, though at a very low cost; most of which deliverable and "printable" throughout the network. Here comes such a revolutionary trend for the current economic system, where ICT may become a new paradigm for industry and production environment, supported by two other main factors: Open Source and IoT.

By the time first generation 3D printing patents are being expired, 3D printing is now open to multiple successive innovations. In these very last years, a race has been unleashed to design new polyhedral 3D printers and some innovative use of them. With a strong impact on the community, as far as almost anyone may be free to re-invent and share personal projects throughout the network, so creating an ever rising ripple effect. The so-called FabLabhave newly been born, besides several start-ups.

Everything framed and hinged in-between two other leading agents: Open Source (an "open" and free technology, such as  "Arduino" HW born from the Italian genius, flexible, affordable and accessible to everyone) supporting 3D Printing, while heightening it virally; Digital ICT based technologies giving new "intelligence" to dummies objects, so to create asmall universe of “animated things"interconnected and Internet-accessible, for the benefit of the public. Her come the objects "printable" on the go, by the aid of one click, at a very low cost.

Such a combination between IoT and 3D Print, within an Open Source scenario, is quite a good start to enable, millions and millions of people achieving billions of smart objects, connectable to one another. And to the Internet. ICT,while supporting a new world of "smart" replicable objects, supplied throughout the network at an exponential rate, will change people habits and customs, and make dreamy promises come true due to such brand new potentiality.

Today, 3D printing is breaking out different areas, from Engineering to Medicine, from Space to Fashion, from Air to Automotive, not to mention Food, Decor, Cosmetics, Design, Jewelry and Toys (modeling and games for adult and children).

For all kind of production or stage of processing, an ad hoc technology is to be used, also supported by suitable 3D printerscapable to reproduce and reshape a variety of different materials, at very different scale. Whereas production costs are nearly dropping down, helped by a one-to-one marketing strategyable to meet quite any Customer needs.

Here come forth just a few examples.

In the field of medical prosthesis and artificial limbs, components will be produced at a bargain price,particularly affordable if compared to the market trend; therefore, they will be largely customizable even to the smallest detail, as if tailored for a specific patient. This just happened in the Netherlands, where a plaque "printed ad hoc" has been newly installed in the skull of a twenty-two years old girl. Even the problem of children’s biological growth will be overcome, as the limb may "grow" along with the child, therefore assuring a positive effect on costs as prosthesis may be re-printed on-demand.

Even into the air space something is moving. In Hamburg, 3D printing technology has been used to produce metal components for the entire range of Airbus. By reducing the weight and aerodynamic drag of the aircraft, fuel consumption will be significantly reduced. These are all factors that shall not be negligible. So NASA itself already launched a rocket with a 3D printer on board, devoted to build spare parts directly into the orbit, while avoiding to upload stocks for emergencies; which will commonly managed by printing tools and other elements on the spot.

Even the Construction industry is facing some unimaginable challenges. Everyone will be able to build his own house at a basic price, quite the lowest if compared to market prices, also thanks to some new phantasmagoric 3D printers devoted to operate at a very large scale, and printstructures up to 12 square meters at a time. Ecological materialsare also to be included. So far that dreams and productivity are combined to perfection, to regain a healthy, man-sized home concept. Based on the example of the WASP project, inspired by the potter wasp’stechnique, so to build up a house in just 24 hours (Winsun in China).

Even the Food sector has been tempted all along. Due to some techniques pertaining to molecular-gastronomy, eatable fruits can now be “printed”. Great chefs admirably combine liquid nitrogen and 3D printing to reshape ordinary food and merge unusual tastes (e.g.salty ice cream). Every housewife will soon be able to "print”edibles using her favorite ingredients (even dietary ones) so transforming every meal into a newly-design and distinctive one. By affecting novelty and tradition, Barilla is doing his best; this worldwide renownedgiant of the Italian pasta will experience some new production in the Netherlands,by "printing pasta on-site" directly at restaurants’, helped by TNO (l 'Netherlands Organization for applied Scientific Research). So to merge productivity and inventive, avant-garde and costumes.

Within arts, handicrafts and design, 3D printing potentiality is highly varied, ranging from fashion to furniture, decorative objects, jewelry, etc. ... so giving the opportunity to create high quality and thoroughly refinedobjects,as the precious, in answer to the customer’s ever changing wishes. Here comes the world where style is embracing technology.

Even stock exchanges follow the mood. Materialise, a best-of-breed 3D printers company has just been listed on NASDAQ index. It produces and sells different kinds of objectsto the public, ranging from pieces of furniture to jewelsall along. The company gets new ideas right from the bottom, throughout the Internet Communities, so giving life to some visionary projects. On-demand.

Then what can we expect from future? 3D Printing affair is widely spreading out, thoroughly supported by the Internet big potential. Besides, ICT is expanding horizons and broadening a renewed growth.

According to Gartner, by 2018, at least seven of the 10 major USA retailers on the web will make use of 3D printing technology to generate customizable commands. After the all-time producers, such as Stratasyswhich has been operating for 30 years on end, and is nowadays a main industry-leader, big players want to get involved as well, so taking the fieldon both consumer and business markets.

Due to 3D printing, Amazon has already started to sell low-cost consumer items,which can be addressed one-to-one, on the basis of each customer’s request. Here come objects printable as a service, on-demand, at a very competitive price. So far that the production process is to be inverted; as if an atelier newly designed dress was to be sold as a basic one.

Autodesk will innovate his way to produce drawings and make 3D projects, by the aid of synergies coming out from a new Open Source platform,able to support ad hoc 3D applications, so to create, modify and edit patterns and three-dimensional objects to be shared on the network. This will dramatically change the working methods commonly used by professionals and architecture studios. 

Also the "crowd” will get involved. Thanks to the use of 3D printers (used either "in house" or via the web service) customers will soon become leaders, switching from being consumer to becoming pro-sumer and makers, quite on their own. They will drive such a phenomenon into the third industrial revolution, far ahead, in a widely openscenario, still to be explored. By the way, ICT is meant to be the one, enabling and supportingplatforms, communities, web services, so perceiving hints and stimulus right from the ground, as an ever-ending bottom-upvirtuous process. Here comes the new logic of such a 3D pervasive era.

 

SELF DRIVING CARS


VIRTUAL CURRENCIES


3D PRINTING