Brussels, Jan 2006
At a conference in Brussels last week, Jan Bosch, a board member of the Networked European Software and Services Initiative (NESSI) Technology Platform, which proposes to aid innovation in the services industry up to 2010 and beyond, gave lively examples of how simple IT can provide huge cost savings:
'We have reached an important milestone, where mobile technologies are now more reliable than physical ones. There is a major shift in society, and services in different forms are the reason for that change. In Finland, dentists managed to save 30 per cent of their costs when they introduced a simple SMS service for bookings - you text if you cannot make your appointment, and then the dentist texts the next customers to see if they are able to come earlier.'
Mr Bosch went on to paint a picture of the kind of infrastructure needed: 'There are ever faster communications and ways to cooperate, so we need better use of resources. We need to move from stand-alone to networked, from products to services and we need increased feedback.
The NESSI project has already been in development for a year, but is now actively looking for partners from SMEs, academic institutions, the ICT sector and public and private users. Although this is an EU initiative, the world will benefit from the NESSI innovations.
From 1 February, interested parties will be able to register, and those interested in applying to join the working groups, steering committee or board can do so from 15 February.
'In the move from supplying products to supplying services, Europe needs to be at the forefront,' said Jean-Paul Lepeytre, senior vice-president at Thales and NESSI chairman, at the NESSI forum conference. 'We need a generic, open source infrastructure, definite standards and rules for open source, participation of EU partners and institutions, and a forum to introduce the vision.'
'Technical challenges that have to be met include complex and personalised user interfaces and trustworthy connections. New services must be in place invisibly. The network must be scaled for performance as there will be more peer-to-peer linkage. Finally, there will be new markets, and the system will have to adapt to them,' he said.
'To meet these challenges, we need to be customer-driven. Customers, citizens and end-users are very important. There must be vertically integrated solutions for horizontal issues. We need a multidisciplinary and open source approach which can handle a rapid innovation cycle.'
The NESSI project aims to build on the Internet, which is used more and more for business. People in IT circles refer to this imminent development as Web 2:0. To do this, the NESSI software strategy, driven by the Strategic Research Agenda, will provide a holistic software infrastructure that is flexible, interoperable, reliable and efficient. As the NESSI Vision Document explains: 'A crucial missing piece is a software infrastructure middleware facilitating a seamless and cost-effective composition of services in this new era of the web. This software infrastructure should support pervasive and ubiquitous application scenarios where machines dissolve across the net into a set of special purpose and domain-specific appliances.'