IU-ATC workshop to promote ‘digital economy’, 12 March

A two day workshop of the India-UK Advanced Technology Centre (IU-ATC) of Excellence in Next Generation Networks, Systems, and Services is being held at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi on March 8th-9th, 2013. This workshop titled “8th Indo-UK Technical Workshop on Next Generation Network Systems and Services” is the first international workshop to be held at the new Kamand Campus of IIT Mandi. About 30 participants have come from the UK, with about 50 from various parts of India. The valedictory address for this workshop will be delivered by Dr. M. M. Pallam Raju, Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development, Government of India, in the afternoon on 9th March, 2013.

IU-ATC aims to develop next generation wireless technologies tailored to the Indian needs. This consortium is simultaneously developing low-cost applications using wireless networks to serve the needs of the masses, especially in rural India. The main purpose of the workshop this year is to reflect on the research work done to date since the last workshop at Cambridge University, UK; and, to take on board further recommendations from funding agencies, which include the Department of Science and Technology-DST (India) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-EPSRC (UK).

IU-ATC is by far the largest consortium for collaborative research between UK and India including nearly 200 researchers (students, faculty, postdocs, and industry researchers) from India and UK. This consortium has helped create a network of Indian and UK scientists of a magnitude that did not exist up to now. The IU-ATC is the first large multi-institution, cross-continent project involving academia in India and UK coupled with active industry participation. Currently, the consortium comprises of nine leading research universities in UK, six IITs and the IISc, R&D organisations and major industrial partners in UK and India, and a number of small and medium enterprises.

        The Director IIT Mandi, Prof. Timothy A. Gonsalves addressing the gathering at IU-ATC workshop on March 8.

From the U.K. side, the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland is the lead institution in IU-ATC. Eight other research-based UK universities form a part of IU-ATC: University of Surrey, Lancaster University, Queen Mary University of London, Southampton University, University of St. Andrews, University College London, University of Bristol, and the University of Cambridge. From the Indian side, IIT Madras is the lead institution and it is joined by five other IITs (IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IIT Mandi, IIT Kanpur, and IIT Hyderabad), IISc Bangalore and two R&D organisations IIT-M's RTBI and CeWIT. Companies in the consortium include: BT, Toshiba, Infosys, Wipro, and Sasken among others. The consortium is headed by Prof. Gerard Parr, University of Ulster and Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, IIT Madras.

The IU-ATC aims to provide a holistic approach to next generation wireless networking technologies, from the physical layer to the network protocols, and applications on such networks that are relevant especially to rural India. With this focus, current research in IU-ATC is divided into three high-level areas: Applications and Services; Core Network Systems and Protocols; and, Heterogeneous Wireless Access Networks.

These three research areas within IU-ATC are focused on promoting a “digital economy” that aims to support research and skilled people to effect early adoption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by a variety of user sectors. The IU-ATC research areas are not standalone, but rather they encourage inter-area exchange and sharing of deliverables. This ensures that research test-beds provided by academic and industry partners are coordinated and managed to provide the maximum benefit for the individual research areas and for the project as a whole.

Some socially relevant projects under IU-ATC include E-Agri, E-Health, E-Education, and Emergency Services. The E-Agri project aims to develop technologies that will help connect farmers with experts who would be providing them with much needed farming information. This project also provides experts the tools by which they can quickly and easily search for the latest and relevant information. E-Health involves developing a computer-to-patient voice communication over low-end mobile phones for follow-up after initial treatment. E-Education involves developing a “virtual classroom for education.” The Emergency Services deals with developing an end-to-end system to manage effective delivery of services in case of flood, fire, and other emergencies. These applications are currently being developed at the IIT Madras' Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI). Some of these applications will be deployed in Himachal Pradesh in the coming months by IIT Mandi. An over-arching activity will explore and develop technical solutions to provide scalable wireless and fixed access to Cloud-Computing resources in support of these applications. The whole area of Cloud Applications and Services is important across both the Indian and British governments.

Furthermore, the IU-ATC consortium provides excellent opportunities for training young and senior academicians and research scholars to work in multinational research teams. The consortium has a number of young faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students from leading institutions in India and UK, who work under the guidance and support of their senior mentors.

IU-ATC is funded equally by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in India and EPSRC in UK. The industry partners fund their own participation. The 1st phase ran from 2009-2012. For the 2nd phase from 2013-15, DST has committed funding of about Rs. 20 crores for the Indian side, with the UK side receiving a matching amount from EPSRC.

Beyond the current research areas, the IU-ATC will develop initiatives to attract funding from strategic industry partners and the UK and India governments to become an international Centre of Excellence in ICT Research and Technology Transfer that covers all layers of the communications stack. For this purpose, the IU-ATC will provide an internationally leading resource of expertise and infrastructure to develop, at low financial risk and exposure, the research capacity of indigenous Indian companies in the ICT Engineering and Software sector. IU-ATC will also play a leading role in establishing competitive technology and knowledge transfer between the UK and India in the ICT domain over the next 10 years.