Collaboration and Research Networks
ERG participates in the EC Framework Programme, UK Research Councils (such as the Digital Economy), European Space Agency ARTES research programmes, and a history of fruitful research collaboration with UK industry
The group has been an active member of two international-leading Networks of Excellence:
Research Topics in Internet Transport
There are many implications on Transport layer design and performance from the way the present Internet has evolved. These implications range from ossification, that frustrates and delays deployment of new protocols and mechanisms, to methods that offer inappropriate incentives to application developers and network operators. While there is strong consensus that something must change - exactly what are the next best steps is still largely unclear and is now an important topic of research.
ERG has a range of research activities linked to this topic. These include research into safe ways to update the core TCP protocol, understanding how to deploy and evolve the DCCP transport for multimedia, research into multicast methods and a number of new initiatives seeking to change the way people think about sharing Internet capacity. The group actively participates in the IETF in the Transport and Internet areas. It also maintains the DCCP implementation and contributes to UDP-Lite.
The Changing Face of TV Transmission
The future of TV will undoubtedly introduce a range of digital content. The trend towards all-IP service will also change the delivery of TV in future years. Non-linear content is already being delivered over the Internet. Research in ERG has developed new transmission methods suitable for IP- content. ESA ARTES-funded projects have developed IP-based methods such as the IETF Unidirectional Lightweight Encapsulation (ULE) and the DVB Generic Stream Encapsulation (GSE), both of which are now available in products. ULE is also a part of the Linux kernel.
A growth in IP-based transmission will enable a range of new opportunities: linking linear non-linear content, local contribution, ability to support a diverse range of qualities extending to UHDTV, Research is exploring new transport methods, and how these will be integrated to form an all-IP delivery architecture. New methods, are being explored, such as advanced caching to deliver high quality TV content to places that have little or no traditional broadband connectivity.
A range of applications-led projects have allowed ERG to explore how IP multicast content can be relayed over satellite (ESA ARTES; DART Project) and explored new uses of the technology: such as remote participation in video-based master classes, working with the London Symphony Orchestra, and use of video for teaching personal skills to medical students. Recent ESA ARTES research has explored how TV can be transitionally from the MPEG-2 TS to an all-IP system, paving the way to a future converged service for Internet and broadcast transmission.
Satellite Access for Rural Broadband
Despite widespread access to broadband across much of the UK, many communities and individuals in rural areas do not have either ubiquitous access to the Internet nor broadband service access. The plight of these rural communities has been highlighted in the UK Government Digital Britain report. The challenges to delivering rural access are just no economic and require technical innovation.
Broadband satellite access technology targets both consumer and business applications where cabled and cellular mobile services can not offer cost effective broadband services. New generation satellite systems are emerging, and ERG is engaged in a range of research initiatives to ensure that these new systems:
Projects are evaluating the impact of techniques for radio resource management, design of QoS infrastructure, vendor interoperability of standards, socio-economic benefits of satellite access, and a range of other topics. The research methodologies vary between deploying satellite terminals for case studies in SIRA (dot.rural), to advanced simulator development (Astrium) to testbed evaluation of new methods. The ESA ARTES-funded HLS-MAC project is contributing white papers and offering standardisation support for the Higher Layers Satellite (HLS) - a part of the emerging DVB-RCS2 specification.
Advances in optical transmission are expected to deepen this divide between rural and densely populated urban users, with the potential to marginalise people living in rural areas, and make it uneconomic to live in poorly provisioned areas. One aspect of this challenge is to identify important applications (such as rural healthcare, access to transport information, ability to contribute and engage with digital media, and other new applications). This requires a bringing-together of users, technologists and business/government sectors to understand the issues and importantly to demonstrate pilot operation of new methods. The SIRA and DEAR projects are combining technology understanding with social-economic experience. These projects look at the wider implications of broadband roll-out to rural communities and examine the real benefits, underlying policy and actual requirements that are presented by a commitment to inclusion of all citizens in a digital economy.
ERG through dot.rural is developing methods for a smart Internet-enabled video monitoring platform. Research in video compression and processing algorithms will enable automated selection and subsequent display of desired imagery. Research into Internet transport mechanism, and management of imagery captured at remote sites. Related research is seeking to understand cost/complexity trade-offs in video transmission, allowing applications to adjust their resource usage within user-specified constraints.
In the dot.rural WiSE project the platform will be applied to investigate the ecological impact of deer carcasses from hunting on remote, upland areas. This represents a new paradigm in environmental data collection, enhancing flexibility, and accuracy with the potential to revolutionise data collection in a range of applications. The development of such technology building blocks is expected to also have a wide range of potential applications beyond this initial scenario.
Satellite Applications Laboratory Testbed, SALT
A purpose-built roof-top facility hosts a range of satellite receivers, used to test and evaluate Internet services using DVB transmission technology. Terminals range from 0.3m to 2.5m in size, and include both commercial-off-the-shelf systems and prototype designs for new equipment. Work from the laboratory has supported design of a range of DVB standards for IP-based data transmission, including the Generic Stream Encapsulation (GSE), and the addition of IP networking support to the latest DVB-RCS2 specification.
Internet Network Engineering Testbed
The testbed is well equipped with workstations, managed Ethernet Switches and IP Routers that are permanently assigned for network experiments, as well as other networking equipment. It fully supports IPv4 and IPv6 and is multicast enabled. QoS support may be supplied when needed within the network. A range of tools (constructed either in-house, purchased, or on loan) are available and may be used to monitor, analysis and implementation of communications protocols. The testbed supports active development of open standards, and contribution to open source software projects. The testbed operates in climate-controlled suite with researchers granted remote access to control, logging, and monitoring functions.
Making Advanced Network Enablers Available to People
The Internet isn't free, it isn't the same everywhere, and it isn't always what people want to run their applications. Imagine this was different. Perhaps the most important thing si connectivity at low cost, maybe in a place where there is no current Internet service offering... perhaps your broadband isn't high enough for a crucial video conference call with your hospital consultant..., or maybe you application needs some specific network feature that you are willing to pay a little extra for today? This research seeks to deploy technology enablers to create new services, applications and business models by combining adaptive variation of Quality of Service (QoS)/bandwidth, multicast, caching of multimedia content and micropayments.
The TSB-funded DART Project brings together key players to explore new services, network applications, billing, etc. to support trials, and integration of value-added services. Trialists and experimenters are welcome to apply to use DART for their own applications!