The Horizon 2020 joint EU-KR program granted the involved participants and their ecosystems a framework to establish a cooperation that would not have taken place otherwise. While EU institutions are usually cooperating with other partners in the continent, Korean researchers do not have many chances to carry out international R&D projects. They usually focus on domestic projects, along with a few international programs such as Eureka or Eurostar. Though consortia in these programs consist of partners from various nations, the interaction between participating institutions are rather limited when compared to the vibrant and active collaboration established within the Horizon 2020 joint EU-KR program. Beside the personal experience and growth, which per se constitute an immense value (a person with wider and more inclusive perspective is an enrichment for the society), the program gave researchers from both sides the opportunity to interact with societal and industrial ecosystems that are quite different from each other, where customers/consumers and general public have diverse needs or preferences, sometimes orienting the development of innovative technologies towards heterogeneous directions. Each of the researchers involved was able to confront with various technical perspectives and regulations, and contribute, in collaboration with its peers, to international standards and communities.
DECENTER widened our understanding of industrial and academic developments related to cloud computing, IoT and AI technologies, which are very different by nature, yet are maturing very quickly. Indeed, cloud and IoT technologies revolutionised the way a service is provided, with Docker and Kubernetes, two of the technologies leveraged by DECENTER, already de-facto standards solutions for service deployment after less than ten years from their first appearance. With respect to AI, research directions are manifold (e.g., increasing accuracy with different architectures, data manipulation, optimisation, etc.). Though the topics themselves are quite relevant and interesting to the researchers, it takes the effort of different experts to identify which of them are of importance to different groups of stakeholders to realise successful AI services.
This joint EU-KR program – more specifically, the DECENTER project – provided a chance to organize a consortium with different backgrounds to deal with the challenges stated in the call. At the time of the proposal preparation, EU partners contributed with solid knowledge on cloud, edge and IoT technologies (with more focus on the platform side), while Korean partners had a strong expertise on Artificial Intelligence (more focus on the tools and services side). From the technical standpoint, this was the opportunity to mix up knowledge starting from common interests and pursue ambitious objectives, granting a technology step up and the uptake of relevant outcomes. Partners from EU and KR were collaborating on the project use cases, exploiting the opportunity to work on many, industrially relevant, scenarios. This is, for instance, the case of the robotic logistics (proposed by a European SME) or the ambient intelligence (proposed by a Korean research centre) use cases, in which both contributed knowledge and assets. A relevant amount of expert knowledge was transferred, e.g., cloud orchestration from EU to KR and AI model optimisation the other way around; to facilitate cross-pollination, seminars and meetings were organised throughout the project duration.
The joint effort started shortly after the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Korean equivalent of GDPR, the Private Information Protection Act (PIPA) was announced during the second year of the project. Besides the lack of information that both sides had of counterpart’s regulation, research carried out by consortium members did not include any privacy measure until recently. While implementing the services on the DECENTER platform, we were able to identify regulations on both sides and learned how to implement them with the proposed technologies. It was stunning that we could directly implement some of them with our blockchain-based framework when sharing AI models across borders.
In Korea there are a few organizations that help companies to meet the requirements on different regulations of target markets (e.g., the GDPR center of KISA), but even though issues can be identified, it takes a considerable amount of time to adapt technologies to be compliant with GDPR. On the other hand, there is very little or no knowledge of PIPA regulation in Europe. DECENTER experience is a valuable asset for EU and Korean partners to make a softer landing on the respective markets and be prepared to extend their position in others.
In the international standardisation bodies addressed by DECENTER, contributors represent their nation; in other communities and fora, contributors represent the company or the organization they belong. Further, standardisation is directly connected to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and can be used to protect it, which makes it hard to observe a fruitful collaboration between different organisations.
The EU-KR program facilitated collaboration among partners. First, the unified technical vision required little discussion on work items or participation on standardisation activities. Second, grant and coordination agreements set a common and precise background for the cooperation, reducing risks of conflicts on IPR. In the DECENTER project, the consortium submitted three joint contributions to ISO/IEC JTC1 SC29 WG7, offering a wide visibility to our work on two relevant topics – the deployment of AI through cloud technologies, and the configuration of AI methods to build an end-to-end service. The latter contribution has now been selected as a next work item of WG7. In addition to that, DECENTER contributed to a few domestic and international communities with members from both EU and KR, such as the Urban Technology Alliance or Korean Institute of Broadcast and Media. These DECENTER outreaching activities attracted interests from research society – partners have received multiple invitations for events and new research projects. The fact that contributions included members from both sides gave credibility to our work, inspired trust in the eyes of interlocutors, and eased offline discussions.
Therefore, two significant benefits of the EU-KR joint program on international standardisation were noticed. First, it lowered barrier for collaboration, from the technical, legal and administrative viewpoints. Second, co-authoring of contributions had a noteworthy effect on attracting attention to our work and giving a positive impression, represented a mutual consensus between organisations and countries, promoting a unified EU-KR angle on matters that will influence the technologies at the basis of our digital future.
DECENTER project has developed some potential business scenarios for the project outcomes which were validated with a set of external stakeholders to the project. The project presented the business models to the stakeholders in two workshops and then requested for their feedback to an online survey of 12 questions about impact assessment and adoption feasibility of project results.
A total of 21 stakeholders were selected by the project partners within their own organizations but other departments or business units (7 out of the total) and within their contacts network (14 out of them). They were from both Europe and Korea and from different profiles to provide a complementary view on the project from diverse angles, thus we involved cloud/edge infrastructure providers, universities and companies as technology innovators, system integrators and end users.
The consultation was a very useful instrument to assess the assumptions about possible impact and adoption of DECENTER in potential customers. It has showed the relevance of DECENTER results in the market, the value it brings to the business and the requirements are needed to set up DECENTER in a real scenario. Thanks to the obtained feedback, some improvements have been achieved during the remaining project and others are identified for the next future.