eChallenges 2004, Vienna, Austria

The eChallenges/e-2004 Conference titled ‘eAdoption and the Knowledge Economy’ was held in Vienna, Austria on October 27-29, 2004 with the goal to increase awareness of exploitable results of the European Research Area (ERA) and to expand the return on investment (ROI) thorough better exploitation of results and better coordination of research activities. The conference was organised with a total of 74 sessions, held with up to 8 sessions in parallel and an overall of 230 contributions. The conference was attended by 600 delegates. Outstanding topics were eGovernment/eDemocracy, eBusiness/eCommerce – with Interoperability being a sub-topic- , Networked-, Smart- & Virtual Organisations , SME issues, Knowledge Management, Broadband and Mobility, Standardisation, Training and Education. The conference papers are published in two volumes with a total of over 1800 pages by IOS Press, ISBN 1 58603 470 7. This report summarises some results and issues from selected sessions and from the INTEROP demonstration stand.

In the Opening Plenary Session, two remarkable industry presentations were given: O. Terzidis, SAP presented the development process from research to product offering of a global player with very successful application example of radio frequency identification (RFID) for supply chain control. A. Mottram, Alcatel draw a resume of the implementation of broadband and mobile communication technology and emphasised the need for industry initiatives as well as for continuous European support.

In the session  ‘European & US Perspectives on Interoperability’, G. Santucci, European Commission emphasised the importance of similarly oriented FP6 projects as INTEROP and ATHENA to stimulate collaboration and innovate together. N. Ivezic, NIST reported about automated system design integration in NIST which could lead to self designing and self integrating systems, requiring formal semantics and neutral standards as PSL, the Process Specification Language. In addition to the project presentations of INTEROP by JP Bourrières, University Bordeaux 1 and ATHENA by K.D. Platte, SAP, the latter announced the industry supported Enterprise Interoperability Centre (EIC) with the goal of testing and disseminating Interoperability applications. P. Snack, AIAG reported results of an Interoperability action in the (US) Automotive Sector, carried out by the Automotive Industry Action Group. The major concepts used are standardised notations, namely Business Processes in UML diagrams, Business Object Documents (BODs) from OAG and information schemas in XML/ebXML plus visualisation tools.

In two sessions on Collaborative Environments and Virtual Organisations, the papers addressed methods, tools and case studies to manage virtual organisations and communities of practice which would usually operate with both no-charge knowledge open to everybody and paying knowledge available only to members. Typical network issues are provision of competence and problem solving. For the example in the VE-Network, the need for moderation of the network in order to establish a meaningful value-adding service was discussed. Different roles exist in the network such as the knowledge provider, the knowledge user and very importantly a mentor to orchestrate the content and to oversee priorities and governance. The long term life of networks seems to be only assured via membership fees or by sponsorships.

Standards and Standardisation as a general domain independent topic was addressed in two sessions. The seven papers presented the role of standards versus research, standards taxonomies and the role of SMEs in standards development as well as standards on framework and modelling languages and services. The need for standards is mentioned in many papers. However, the type of standard can be very different, for instance whether de jure standards (ISO/CEN), de facto standards (html, XML), industry standards (MDA) or reference solutions for application domains – such as frameworks, methods, services - are considered. Hence, the interoperability solutions differ considerably. A key requirement is that a standard must be accepted at some point in time and applied by users.

The INTEROP NoE project had a demonstration stand at the eChallenges Conference. Besides information on the project, the INTEROP collaborative platform was demonstrated and a preliminary version of Athos, the Ontology Management System, developed in the context of the Athena IP, was shown. In this stage the Athos System can be used for the creation of glossaries in the collaborative platform, that currently does not offer this functionality.

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