What’s next for CELTIC-NEXT

CELTIC-NEXT: Looking Back

It is said that there are periods in history where, if you jump 50 years, the world is recognizable. But there are other periods of rapid development where such a jump brings you to an unrecognisable new world. The first half of the 20th Century would be an example of the latter as at the turn of the century the world was still based on horse transport but by the middle of the 20th Century cars, trains and planes had made the world small and accessible to all.

For Telecommunications we have seen such a generational change in the first 20 years of the 21st Century. In fact, the pace of change from the late 1990s to today has seen the communications infrastructure change and evolve so rapidly that it has changed the behaviour of society as a whole.

As the new technologies advance, they reach a level where they become “adequate”. What I mean by this is that it became sufficient for all normal needs to the point that you, as a user, no longer expects or demands evolutions. You don’t ask any more if you PC processor is fast enough – they all are fast. We are rapidly entering the era where you don’t worry about your data connection any more as it is fast enough. So where do we go from here?

CELTIC-NEXT: Looking Forward

There is a core challenge in the ICT domain that each evolution of the network infrastructure has prompted a complete infrastructure renewal. The fixed network had to be changed for a mobile network and then, in subsequent generations, all physical network elements had to be replaced with newer faster devices. No other infrastructure industry has had such a challenge. For example, the electricity network to your house has probably never been renewed. In the ICT sector growth has been explosive as people now have a communication device for every family member (probably including the dog) and most family members now have several communicating devices.

This means that Telcos must get a good return on investment on each new technology within a very short time in order to be able financially implement the next generation. To progress from here the ICT industry now has to migrate to more generic hardware that can provide many of the interesting evolutions through updating software. Network infrastructures must have interfaces that allow elements to be changed without changing the whole system. At the same time the whole ICT domain must address the new requirements that include important issues like: sustainability, renewability, inherent societal considerations and, more recently, sovereignty.

CELTIC-NEXT: The future opportunities

Two streams of innovation are essential for the future: the first is the revolution – where new services and devices that enhance our live must be invented and brought to life; and the second is evolution – where every aspect of how we do things must be overhauled to be done more efficiently, using less energy and resources, and for lower costs.

ICT not only must facilitate this for its own industry but also it is the facilitator for other sectors. The revolution of millions of sensors – the Internet of Things (IoT), combined with the explosion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems means we now should have all the data and the intelligence to learn how to improve everything.

The great opportunities for ICT now include:

  • To use our imagination and inventiveness to make our systems simpler, lighter, and more energy efficient. AI can help here.
  • To make the lifecycles more sustainable – reprogrammable equipment means longer working lives and less resources, and recycling helps everyone.
  • To help reduce the digital divide and promote better education and information. Again, AI can help.
  • To clean up the global information pool and make it safe. We all need information we can trust. Another opportunity for clever AI tools?
  • On a personal level, we need assistance to enjoy the end-to-end communications, so long the backbone of CELTIC-NEXT projects, so let’s invent a new family of cutting-edge services devoted to looking after the interests of the individual.

These challenges are ideal for the Eureka Clusters Programme, as the combination of national interest and early industry investment ensures the wellbeing of both society at large and the industry sectors is considered.

ICT is a tool for economic growth and development. The dramatic evolution of the ICT networks now mean that it generates lots of new opportunities and can change the way our civil society functions. We must now join forces within the CELTIC-NEXT cluster to address these challenges and take advantage of the exciting opportunities to protect, preserve and enhance all the best and beautiful parts of our societies and, at the same time, to invent and develop new, better, more sustainable, solutions to our existing problems.

The exciting evolving ICT sector can be used as a stimulus to stop the spread of negative trends and lead the way towards sustainable development on all levels. CELTIC-NEXT is looking forward to a new generation of projects inventing new networks and services that facilitate a better future for all.