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Research Areas



Research areas




In order to promote the achievement of the Trento RISE goals,  the scientific activities within Trento RISE are organized in homogenous research groups called Research Areas. The Research Areas are aimed at coordinating competences on relevant topics and enabling the participation to Trento RISE research and innovation (with high social and market impact) projects. The Research Areas also promote activities for the integration of Education, Research and Innovation, thus supporting the achievement of the Trento RISE goals.


Data and Knowledge Engineering (DKE)

Data & Knowledge Engineering (DKE) is recognized as one of the key research area well settled in the Trentino region and it constitute a remarkable capital of highly advanced competences, international research excellence, fundraising capability, and innovation and social impact.

Research themes in Data and Knowledge Engineering span from the management and interpretation of large amounts of (raw) data that need to be processed and analyzed to the definition and exploitation of very general logical theories, which formally describe complex constraints and assumptions concerning a specific domain. Between these two extremes there are other research areas such as knowledge representation and reasoning, databases and information systems design, conceptual modeling and ontological analysis, data mining, machine learning, knowledge acquisition, data and knowledge integration, Web science, semantic web, linked data management, scientific data management, and so on.
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Embedded Systems (ES)

 

Embedded computation systems (ES) carry out complex monitoring and control functions in real-world environments. Complex artifacts featuring a tight combination of, and coordination between, the system’s computational and physical elements, often referred to as cyber-physical systems (CPS), are becoming part of everyday life. Target application fields include avionics, automotive, railways, healthcare, factory automation, robotics, logistics, transportation infrastructure, and structural monitoring and control.

Several fundamental issues must be taken into account in the design of complex embedded systems. Often these systems carry out functions that are mission- or safety-critical, must deal with resource constraints on energy and computing power, and must guarantee real-time response and fault-tolerance. The design process must ensure short time to market, and maintainability of product families over time. Further difficulties come from the hybrid nature of the designed systems that combine in a globally asynchronous communication infrastructure a number of locally synchronous components (GALS).

The Model-based development approach attempts to devise well founded, compositional architectural solutions for Hardware (HW), Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) and Middleware (MW), and to provide suitable modeling and verification capabilities, raising the level of abstraction at which complex embedded systems are designed and validated. The area of Embedded Systems (ES) is identified as one of the strategic directions in ICT in the research plan of Trentino local government (PTR). The PTR identifies several research and technological areas related to ES:


  • Architecture and reference solutions
  • Support for distributed run-time: from network communication to middleware
  • Design methods and tools for rapid and dependable prototyping.


Human Language Technology (HLT)

 

Human Language Technology (HLT) is emerging as a crucial research area addressing the issue of how to manage large amounts of content that is nowadays available in digital form. The exponential growth of such content, on the one hand makes it necessary both methods and tools for its automatic processing on a large scale; on the other hand it calls for the realization of advanced and innovative services which allow an effective interaction, both person-person and person-machine, through which drastically improving the access to both multimedia and multilingual content.

Under this demand, in the last years the research community on HLT has expanded significantly, both for quantity and quality of its achievements. From the point of view of the methods, research is rapidly converging toward the use of empirical methods (i.e. based on data) whose progresses are constantly measured by means of objective and shared evaluation methodologies. The potential of HLT is recognized by research funding agencies, both in the USA and in Europe. Specifically, at the European level, the FP7 recognizes a prominent role to HLT for its function of increasing communication among the member states and of preserving the richness of their linguistic diversity, and thus their cultural identity.

The scientific challenge is made even more complex in the current web scenario, where we are fronted by the huge information overload, whose analysis requires to consider new forms of content publishing and authoring, and new form of diffusion, access and consume to information streams (e.g. through social networks).

On the applicative side, HLT covers a large range of services and applications to support tasks where the understanding of linguistic interaction is crucial (both based on written texts and on speech), even in contexts where language is not the only communication mean.
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ICT for Geographic Information (GeoICT)

Environmental monitoring, land and resource control, as well as climate change are strategic topics for the impact they have on the society, the economy, and other specific application domains, as human and environmental health. The ICT disciplines are playing an ever increasing role in such domains: no study can abstract from the fundamental importance of of new generation ICT systems being able to extract and make geo-information available at different scales (i.e., local, regional, global) in a systematic, fast and updated way. The scientific and technical challenges in the development of such systems concern the acquisition of geo-data, processing of heterogeneous and high dimensional data, pattern recognition and prediction, and the definition of novel techniques for data analysis and visualization.

Research area on GeoICT that aims at addressing the above-mentioned scientific, technological and application topics. The team has a large know-how on the main ICT topics related to the acquisition, extraction, processing, analysis, archiving, management and visualization of geographic information, as well as on their large application domain. The research activities will be carried out with an interdisciplinary approach, with a strong international networking and paying attention to the strategic activities at local level.

 

Interactive visualization, simulation and geometric modeling technologies (i-VISION)

 

In the world of simulation, visualization and visual computing technologies, more is better, and too much is never enough. In the last few years, ever-increasing computational power as well as new hardware and software technologies is revolutionizing the field. The wide availability of dedicated graphics hardware at low cost, has significantly contributed to the widespread adoption of 3D graphics solutions. This has rapidly brought a profound paradigm shift whereby users are getting used to access a variety of digital information from within a 3D environment. An example of this is the large popularity enjoyed by the use of tablet devices, which is creating new ways of experiencing and sharing heterogeneous digital information according to their spatial reference in the real world. This example of paradigm shift goes beyond the initially visionary concept of “Ubiquitous Computing”. The ready availability of large amounts of computational power in small devices and their constantly decreasing cost, has paved the way to the concept of ubiquitous Mixed Reality (MR). Within the vision brought forward by Weiser, the ultimate goal is to make computational power available to people wherever and whenever they need it. This requires extending access to computational power from desktop PCs to nomadic computing solutions. Examples of possible scenarios are a user who needs to retrieve information during a meeting to be able to better contribute to discussion, or a user driving a car, being helped to drive more efficiently and safely, or a surgeon bring supported during a surgical operation or, eventually, a designer being helped while drawing new project ideas.

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Multidimensional-Multimodal Signal Processing and Interpretation (MMSPI)

The recent technological advances on sensors, computational capabilities, transmission and storing, made possible the development of real-world data sets of different nature and increasing size. Processing and understanding multi-dimensional multi-modal signals represent a research area of crucial importance for the future development of autonomous systems able to:
 

  • Exploit an heterogeneous set of information sources (e.g., video-cameras, microphones, electromagnetic sensors, etc.), available in multimedia archives, or acquired in a real dynamic context;
  • Capture the relevant information that best describe the observed scene;
  • Eventually exploit suitable models that allow an accurate understanding of the scene, for instance by analyzing the interactions occurring between subjects and objects populating the environment.

This is a highly cross-disciplinary area, in which the smart integration of technologies and competences belonging to different research areas plays a major role. As a matter of fact, the joint exploitation of features extracted from different sources represents a crucial element to develop effective solutions, both at signal level (e.g., combining and then jointly processing audio and video signals) and at higher levels of abstraction (e.g., based on semantic models describing the scene). The resulting information can be exploited, for instance, in a scene reconstruction in the physical model based on rendering modalities (e.g. for real-time reproduction of a 3D audio-video scene based on the use of loudspeaker arrays and 3D displays), or in the automatic interpretation of real-world scenarios for the implementation of smart environments or to provide semantics to media. Besides audio-video signals, several other sources of information can be considered such as, bio (EEG, ECG, etc.), motion and position (accelerometers, ultrasounds), haptics, etc.

 

Networking & Communication Infrastructures (i-NETWORKS)

The Future Internet requires the availability of an adequate networking and communication infrastructure to enable the various envisaged applications. Correspondingly, the main target of the i-NETWORKS Research Area is the development of energy-efficient future network infrastructures that support the convergence and interoperability of heterogeneous mobile, wired and wireless broadband network technologies as enablers of the Future Internet. Moving away from the traditional “IPv4 Internet”, the challenge for the future network infrastructure will be to support not billions but rather trillions of connected devices and related information feeds.

Besides intrinsic scalability and complexity management challenges, future network infrastructures will also have to guarantee convergence of network technologies such as high-capacity optical, broadband and cognitive wireless, sensor and embedded networks, satellite and high-altitude networks with increasing attention dedicated to ensuring high energy efficiency and low maintenance costs. In addition, future network infrastructures will also have to ensure requirements of quality, reliability and security in the context of urban, rural as well as mobility scenarios.

 

Networks, Systems, Services: from the cloud to the internet of things (NSS)

Computing devices able to communicate with both wired and wireless means increasingly surround us. These devices range from resource-rich ones to increasingly small, resource-constrained ones, all becoming more and more part of everyday-life objects and environments. This trend, often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) is laying the grounds for truly realizing the original vision of pervasive computing. On a different scale, distributed computing as we know it is being redefined by the presence of large-scale, always-on, Internet-based infrastructures (Clouds, P2P systems, virtual infrastructures, etc.) providing a new virtual fabric to build distributed and pervasive applications and services. These two facets are eventually going to converge: the cloud may become the persistency root where the data harvested by sensors and objects are stored or, in turn, where user preferences and applications reside before being dynamically pushed to smaller, resource-limited devices.

This vision is enabled largely by technological progress in computing and communication devices, both in terms of their performance and capabilities, and of their miniaturization. Nevertheless, the true challenge we face is not just how to squeeze more computing and communication power, or more life-time out of these devices. Rather, it is how to design systems – inherently distributed – where all these devices and options interoperate coherently and cooperatively according to the intended user requirements, maintaining performance and reliability guarantees, and without losing their intrinsic benefits in terms of dynamicity, flexibility, and ability to communicate and interact based on the external conditions.

Designing these systems requires joining competences from different fields. On the one hand, novel networking and communication protocols are needed, that are not only able to cope with the multiple scales, latencies, and power constraints typical of the aforementioned scenarios, but also that are flexible enough to accommodate different and/or changing application requirements. On the other hand, application programmers must be shielded by the details and complexity of the underlying communication, and provided with effective abstractions and tools, such as the ones provided by the Service Oriented Computing paradigm, that allow for a rapid and reliable development of applications harvesting the power of modern distributed computing and exploiting the opportunities provided by Clouds and by the IoT.

 

Security, Privacy and Trust (InfoSec)

Security, Privacy and Trust have high priority in the EU research agenda: “Secure, dependable and trusted Infrastructures” and “Trustworthy ICT” are primary objectives in the FP7 Cooperation Workprogramme and are thus key to tackle Challenge 1 “Pervasive and Trustworthy Network and Service Infrastructures”.  This will be even more so in the future. Starting from the observation that “only 12% of European web users feel completely safe making online transactions” the Digital Agenda for Europe (http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/digital-agenda/index_en.htm) puts Trust and Security among its 7 pillars.

Security and Privacy play also a key role in all EIT ICT Labs areas. By leveraging the research, education, and innovation initiatives offered by the EIT ICT Labs through TrentoRISE, InfoSec aims at becoming a centre of excellence in Information Security not only at the European, but also at the international level.


Smart Microsystems for Sensing (SMS)

Microsystems represent one of the main hardware activities relevant to ICT. The combination of Microelectronics and Microsensor technologies is generating a new class of smart microsystems with high level sensing capabilities (i.e. integrated sensors that measure some physical quantities, translate them into electronic signals and finally process raw data to extract useful information before transmitting it to nearby devices) that are becoming increasingly interesting for a number of applications and will be one of the major topics of active research in next future for two main reasons:

  • the ever increasing market demand for smart microsystems-based devices in environmental and medical applications;
  • the dramatic reduction of the time-to-market of embedded systems, which compels companies to adopt appropriate design, manufacturing and testing methodologies in order to be competitive.

Nowadays, most of available commercial and research solutions for smart sensors are based on the use of off-the-shelf components. This means that the currently available microsystems have to be interfaced with external components for processing and transmission. However, the ultimate objective in next future is to achieve a fully integrated device, namely a complete system with sensing unit, processing unit, software/firmware resources. In particular, the use of microfabrication technologies for the sensing unit is recognized to be one of the most promising technologies to achieve full system integration with evident benefits in terms of size, weight, cost and low power consumption.


Social Informatics (SI)

Social Informatics is an emerging area of informatics that studies how information systems can realize social goals, apply social concepts, and become sources of information relevant for social sciences and for analysis of social phenomena. It is concerned with the intersection of social behavior and computational systems, and relates to the interdisciplinary study of the design, uses and consequences of information technologies that takes into account their interaction with social, institutional, economical, and cultural contexts.

 

Software Engineering (SWEng)

Software constitutes a key technology that can add value to a broad range of products and services. Our society critically depends on software to manage enterprises in the industrial, governmental, health-care, transportation and financial sectors (among others). As well, our personal lives heavily depend on software that keeps us connected, healthy and entertained. However, the cost and quality of delivered software remain a great unmet challenge. To address that challenge, there is much interest and on-going research in areas such as Requirements Engineering, Software Testing and Service-Oriented Architectures. Research in software engineering is perceived as critical by funding agencies worldwide. In Europe, the last FP7 call mentions advanced Software Engineering (SE) as one of the key, strategic focal points of the FP7 agenda. Among fewer than forty advanced research grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) in Computer Science in the past four competitions, four have been awarded in the area of SE, with one of them going to John Mylopoulos (UniTN). To meet ever-growing demand for SE graduates, educational systems worldwide are extending and improving their curricula in SE. Growth in the Software Industry in countries such as India are spearheading economic growth in all sectors and have improved the quality of life for millions.