by Francesco Furfari, Antonio Kung and Saied Tarzari
In a move to improve the AAL research program, the AAL community has decided to make suggestions to the EC policy makers who are currently defining a strategic implementation plan for a European innovation partnership dedicated to active healthy ageing. This contribution has taken the shape of a declaration made public during the AAL forum in Lecce (September 2011). The declaration organisation committee explains the context of this initiative.
The necessity to address the societal challenge of ageing in Europe has led to a comprehensive on-going R&D program for AAL, which is now an integral part of the Digital Agenda for Europe: the 7th framework program funds longer-term R&D, the AAL Joint Program is dedicated to market-oriented R&D, and finally the ICT Policy Support Program within the Competitiveness and Innovation framework program supports initiatives related to deployment priorities. One consequence of this has been the emergence of a well structured European R&D community, as exemplified by the growing success of the annual AAL forum event.
The European Commission is also in the process of defining a strategic implementation plan for a pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing that aims to increase the average healthy lifespan in the EU by 2 years by 2020. This plan should be finalised by the end of this year. Since AAL will be an important part of the plan, comments were made by members of AAL community on the need to improve the research program in order to bridge the gap between R&D and products, pointing out that many R&D activities focus on heterogeneous proof of concepts while insufficient attention was put into overall co-ordination.
A workshop organized by the AALOA initiative and the European Commission took place on June 7th in Brussels with the objective to exchange views on issues and discuss the need for funding. It was subsequently proposed to delegate to AALOA the preparation of a declaration that would be made public and discussed in a dedicated workshop during the AAL forum event in Lecce. The governing board of AALOA set up a declaration organizing committee that worked on a draft of such a declaration, initially inspired by a version published by the MonAMI project. This draft was then discussed in the AAL forum website where five consecutive versions were proposed.
The declaration is around the use of an open platform. A platform can be defined as a computing architecture including software and hardware that serves as a foundation to application programmers. Since it separates specific features implemented by a small community of system experts from application features implemented by a larger community of developers, it allows much easier development of applications. The development of the platform was undertaken in several projects of the AAL research program (Soprano, Persona, MPower, MonAMI, OASIS, I2Home, …) until a further project (UniversAAL) was launched with the objective of federating previous efforts. The launching of AALOA was made through UniversAAL.
But the creation of ecosystems based on a common platform involves long term support and coordination issues. For instance:
- There is a need for long term coordination to allow the integration of transversal features such as quality of service, liability, security, privacy, trust, quality of service, scalability. Such features are developed in other R&D programs. In particular coordination with other non AAL platform developments is needed.
- There is a need for long term coordination between research and products. AAL platforms should allow for the integration of novel features that are perhaps not yet ready for deployment. The research program is vast and long term. It has to cope with many research challenges. Two threads of activities are needed at the same time, the integration of research features into a platform that meets research requirements, and the integration of components in a platform that meets industry requirements.
- There is a need for long term coordination on interoperability. Given the complexity and diversity of the domain, interoperability is a challenging feature to integrate into AAL systems. Individual collaborative projects need to be coordinated according to an interoperability framework. Consensus building is needed.
The workshop dedicated to the declaration in the AAL forum will focus on different types of measures: identification of topics and priorities that can be addressed through today’s funding instruments, measures which necessitate coordination within the program, and measures which would require changes in the program.
Examples of measures will relate to ecosystem building based on a common platform, definition of an interoperability framework based on this platform, long term support of a recognized body supporting the use of the platform in the future ecosystem, and long term support of a consensus building process.
The members of the declaration organisation committee hope that the contribution made through the Lecce declaration will shape positively the R&D and associated coordination landscape in Europe. They would like to thank the EC for its approach in concertation which has allowed the voice of the AAL community to be made public.
AALOA Governing Board Member