Research area

Communications and Services

The Communications and Services research group has a wide ranging interest in service engineering across an array of network technologies, including voice, home and data networks. Key interests include service oriented architecture, service creation, and feature or service interaction.

However the group also has a communications leaning, for example P2P overlays and more recently their role within mobile communications. The group has an interest in the programmability of Wireless Sensor Networks and is investigating this in wind farm and home care settings.

Often the focus of our work is on the control of networked resources using software services. This includes the use of policies as a means to control service behaviour in a more abstract and user-oriented way. The group has experience with services controlling:

  • calls in telephony (POTS, Intelligent Network, Interactive Voice Response)
  • sessions in Voice over IP (Session Initiation Protocol, H.323)
  • the behaviour of networked appliances (UPnP, Jini, X.10, OSGi)
  • Web and Grid applications
  • Wireless Sensor Networks.

Furthermore, the group investigates the integration of these diverse services to achieve added value.

Because of the importance of formal methods in the design of complex communications systems, there is commonality of interest with the Applied Formal Methods research group. There are also an overlapping interest with the Care Technologies Research group in the use of networks to support home care.

Research Activities

Members of the research group work on a number of different aspects of communications and services:

  • Service oriented Architecture with supporting theory, techniques, and tools is of particular interest. The telecommunications world has seen rapid changes due to deregulation, internationalisation, distributed service provision, and new multimedia services. Web and Grid services have become widespread. Soundly-based, practical techniques and tools for engineering services have thus become critical. With the support of several companies, members of the group developed an architectural basis for constructing a wide variety of services. The techniques and tools have been proven using a range of voice and data services.
  • Service Creation research has been carried by group members together with a variety of telecommunications organisations across Europe. Service creation traditionally was driven by the network operator. However, with technologies such as Parlay, SIP (Voice over IP), Web/Grid services and Networked Appliances, services will be created by a number of different parties including the end user. Besides having experience in the creation of traditional voice services, the group has extensive experience in service creation approaches for multimedia services based on the TINA architecture, Voice over IP architectures such as SIP and H.323, VoiceXML, and Web/Grid services.
  • Feature Interaction Handling is a particular research interest of the group. The group was the first to study and classify the new kinds of feature interactions that can arise in multimedia services. Members of the group, together with Telcordia Technologies, were first to analyse the problem of services controlling networked appliances. The approaches developed to address the feature interaction problem include those which can be applied during all stages of the service life cycle and in a number of different target environments. The group has developed filtering, off-line, run-time and hybrid approaches. Targeted environments include traditional telephony, Voice over IP environments (SIP), Interactive Voice Response, Networked Appliances, and Web/Grid services.
  • Peer to Peer (P2P) is a growing area within the group. P2P overlay networks do not require central server components, unlike client-server systems. P2P systems are self-managing, in that they can cope with nodes leaving and joining at a high rate. The group's focus has been on structured P2P overlay networks. Structured P2P systems use a Distributed Hash Table (DHT) as a means to organise nodes into a structure that assigns data items to particular nodes. Structured P2P systems can be classified as either multi hop or single hop. If more than one hop is required to send a message from source to destination node, the system is referred to as a multi hop system. However, as each link in the overlay network corresponds to a path in the underlying IP network, this approach can result in poor latency. With an alternative approach, the destination node can be reached with a single hop. To do so, each node maintains a routing table containing entries for all other nodes in the system. The improvement in the latency for lookups is traded against an increased amount of maintenance traffic keeping the routing tables in all the nodes up to date. The group's focus has been on improving the performance of one hop overlays by employing a multicast approach (XCAST). The group has also designed and implemented a variable hop overlay (Chameleon) where nodes can adapt the algorithm according to the bandwidth currently available.
  • Networked Appliances Networked appliances are attracting increasing interest, and the first selected products are now available. Networked appliances are dedicated consumer devices which contain a network processor and are controlled by software services. Particularly interesting is the control of appliances using software services. Research has included devices employing a variety of protocols for communication, e.g. UPnP (Universal Plug and Play), X.10, and Jini. The most added value will be gained through integration of appliances with various means of communication, such as the WWW (World Wide Web) and telephony. The group has researched the provisioning and integration of services on an OSGi (Open Services Gateway) platform.
  • Wireless Sensor Networks are an extremely active area. Our focus is on the control and programmability of WSNs. For the former we have developed a policy-based management system. For the latter we have investigated different rule engines embedded within the network. More recently we have also been combining a rule engine with mobile phones and WSNs.
  • Virtual Worlds is a recent area of interest. Our focus here is on linking multi-user 3-D virtual worlds such as Second Life with real physical devices. We are not interested in using these devices to provide small (and inadequate) windows into virtual worlds. Rather we want to provide a persistent "connection" between the user and in-world events. Hence we are developing an infrastructure that allows events and information in-world to be displayed on real-devices. We also aim to allow users to influence events in-world without logging on to a conventional PC.

Communications and Services is part of:

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