31 March 2009: i++ School Newsletters, March 2009

 30 March 2009

Knowledge Partnership Kicks Off

We are delighted to announce the start of a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project involving the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering and JobServe Limited.

JobServe was the world’s first Online Recruitment Service, established in 1993 as a UK IT specific service. Their primary business is to provide job seekers the ability to search and apply for advertised roles. The company has grown in the UK to cover many industries with visitor numbers in the millions per month.  This involves the online advertising of jobs and other associated recruitment products such as CV search systems. Customers include the many of the major global recruitment agencies.

From left to right: Udo Kruschwitz, James Wren (JobServe), Duncan Butler (JobServe), Jan Stringer (KTP Advisor), Kate Salmon (JobServe), Simon Lucas.

The project is to develop an improved system to match jobs with potential candidates. The system will use a number of advanced techniques including statistical machine learning, natural language processing and data mining.  This will exploit and enhance the school’s research in this area and strengthen our links with local industry.

This Partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme (KTP).  KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base.  KTP is funded by the Technology Strategy Board along with the other government funding organisations.

The project will be led on the university side by Simon Lucas and Udo Kruschwitz, and by James Wren and John Cowling for JobServe.  The project team are now looking to appoint an enthusiastic software developer to work on this two-year project – details of this post will be advertised soon. 


Leading University Research Wins the Prestigious Lord Stafford Award 

From left to right: Mr James Rook, MD of Sanctuary Social Care Ltd, Lord Stafford and Professor Hani Hagras

A partnership between the University of Essex and an Ipswich-based business to develop a unique business support system, which is the first of its kind in the world, has received the prestigious Lord Stafford Achievement in Innovation award for East of England. This is the most prestigious National Award for University and Business collaboration. The award is given to a project which demonstrates the greatest potential for an innovative product or service that was developed between a University and company, where the product or service has been prototyped and is market ready. This award demonstrates and asserts the Essex leadership as a world leading centre of excellence for industry related research.

The project was done in a partnership between the University of Essex and IP4 Ltd which is based in Ipswich. The project has developed a ground breaking intelligent data analysis and decision support system. The developed system could revolutionise the way major corporations do business.

The technology, which could be on the market within months, is multi-purpose as it is mainly used in real-world situations where large amounts of vague or complex data need to be analysed intelligently. This system has many potential global applications including  Financial services (to support better decision making by banks, companies, shareholders and other financial entities), Biological sciences (to analyse the relationships between genes and diseases), the pharmaceutical industry (to integrate clinical opinions and recommendations of human experts), The Internet ( for ‘traffic control’, to avoid overloads/bottlenecks) and Energy management. The ‘product’ that has been developed is a set of innovative artificial and computational intelligence systems. Unlike other systems only data from the given domain are used, with no need for mathematical/statistical modelling. The product provides an explanation of the system operation in a user-friendly easy to interpret language-based system. In addition, the product identifies relationships and interactions between different system inputs and outputs. The product accurately predicts the effect of changes of given input(s) on system outputs. It provides intelligent decision support to maximise performance, improve efficiency and reduce costs. It also integrate various expert recommendations for group decision-making.

Winners of the Lord Stafford East of England awards – supported by Business Link and the Association of Universities in the East of England – were announced at a gala dinner at the Mumford Theatre in Cambridge on March 31.

Professor Hani Hagras, Director of the Computational Intelligence Centre at the University of Essex, has been the principal investigator in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project since it started in October 2006.

He explained: "This really is a groundbreaking piece of work which has the potential to have some really major benefits for business and commerce across the world in years to come.

"In essence, the product represents a major shift in thinking in intelligent data analysis and decision support.

"We worked with IP4 Ltd to develop the system and have piloted it with one of their subsidiary companies, Sanctuary Personnel , the system has also been piloted in accountancy systems and car dealers management systems."

Dr Faiyaz Doctor is the Senior Research Officer in this project and he explained "Winning this award has recognised the far-reaching commercial impact of the innovative system we have created with IPFour Ltd. It demonstrates how it is possible to successfully bring together university researchers and the business community, and benefit from this collaboration by creating novel value adding solutions to real world problems."

Plans are now underway to set up a spin-off company to commercialise and sell the developed technology. The new product, which is currently going through the patenting process, has attracted high profile commercial interest even before its official launch in the form of a national accountancy firm and internationally known car manufacturer who are interested in the technology.

Lord Stafford, Awards Patron and Chair of the Judges, said: "This is an excellent case of a company approaching a university that is well established in this field to develop a piece of innovative software that could have major benefits in many different industries.

"IP4 knew what it was seeking to achieve, the University of Essex possessed the necessary expertise and the result is a product that is not only benefiting IP4 but could also have a much further reach."

23 March 2009

Field Trial on JANET Aurora

The Photonic Networks Laboratory has successfully completed a major experiment using the JANET Aurora Dark Fibre network.  This is the first significant experiment on this infrastructure. The field trial involved a novel 128 Gb/s optical grooming node, with transmission and switching in a dual ring network configuration being performed, which was realised by looping back the fibre at Chelmsford and Ipswich.
The experiment was coordinated by George Zarris at Essex and also involved researchers from four other European Institutions (Southampton, University College Cork, Karlsruhe and AIT-Athens).
The results were accepted on 22 March as a post-deadline paper in the Optical Fibre Communications (OFC) conference which has just taken place in San Diego.  They were presented on Thursday this week. 
OFC is the major international conference in the field of optical communications, and post-deadline papers are very prestigious (and heavily peer reviewed) as they report the very latest and most significant advances.
Professor Dimitra Simeonidou said, "Although my group regularly presents post-deadline papers at OFC, this is an important one as it announces our new infrastructure capabilities in a big way."


Staff news

Professor Richard Bartle

Professor Richard Bartle delivered the opening keynote at the recent conference on Computer Games/Player/Game Cultures at the University of Magdeburg, Germany. Professor Bartle reports; "Excellent conference, awful coffee."


Paper Accepted

Jonathan Nicholson, Epameinondas Gasparis, Amnon H. Eden, Rick Kazman, Automated Verification of Design Patterns with LePUS3, NASA Formal Methods Symposium—NFM (6–8 April 2009), Moffett Field, CA.


16 March 2009


IEEE United Nations Humanitarian Technology Project

Professor Hani Hagras has recently been invited as world leading expert in Computational Intelligence and energy management to participate in the Humanitarian Technology Challenge project which is a partnership between the IEEE and the United Nations Foundation (UN) targeted at developing technological solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing public health and disaster response workers today.  This is the first time that a technology association like the IEEE and a major humanitarian organization like the UN have formed an up-front collaborative relationship.

The objective is to create sustainable solutions that can be implemented locally, within the environmental, cultural, structural, political and socio-economic conditions where they will be deployed. This will be done by bringing together IEEE experts, other technologists, and humanitarians around the world to collaborate for the benefit of humanity. Five potential needs have been prioritised for consideration as “challenges” to be addressed which are;

  • Reliable Electricity – Availability of power for electronic devices
  • Data Connectivity of Rural District Health Offices --  Capability of exchanging data between central health facilities and remote field offices
  • Local Management and Tracking of Supply Distribution – Ensure that supplies are getting to the people that need them in order to maximize the impact of assistance
  • Incident Tracking – Determine locations and extent to medical problems in order to focus resources
  • Patient ID and Tie to Health Records – Maintain consistent patient records, including when patients visit different clinics and when they relocate.

Professor Hagras will be working with the reliable electricity challenge, where he will be working with other colleagues to employ computational intelligence techniques to provide better energy management and savings in addition to the provision of reliable electricity.


Conference to honour physicists

Two long-standing members of staff at the University of Essex are to be honoured at a conference hosted to mark their retirement and contribution to the study of physics.

Professors Brian Ridley and Rodney Loudon, who combined have worked at the University for more than 80 years, are leaders in the field of semiconductor and optics research. Between them they have won some of the most prestigious international physics awards.

The conference, to be held at Wivenhoe House Hotel on 20 March, is expected to attract up to 60 current and former colleagues of Professors Ridley and Loudon as well as students working in the field. Topics for discussion include ‘Laser Physics: A 50 Year Odyssey,’ ‘Hot Electrons Fifty Years Ago,’ and ‘Holographic Ghost Imaging.’

The event is being organised by Professors Naci Balkan and Mike Adams. Professor Adams said: ‘Together, Brian and Rodney have made a tremendous contribution to the study of physics. Specialists in the field greatly value Brian’s theory on the transferred electron effect which is used in a range of applications including collision avoidance radar, vehicle ABS and burglar alarms; while Rodney’s paper ‘Squeezed Light’ has been cited 1,015 times according to the Web of Science.’

Professor Brian Ridley joined the University in 1964 and was awarded a professorship in 1986. He was one of three founding members of the University’s former Department of Physics and is best known for his research on electron transport in semiconductors. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 2001 received the Institute of Physics Paul Dirac Medal and Prize which is awarded for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics.

Professor Rodney Loudon has been a member of University staff since 1967 and has also held visiting professorial posts at Yale and École Polytechnique, Lausanne. He is best known for his research on quantum optics but his research interests also include spontaneous emission and noise in optical amplifiers and lasers, applications of quantum optics theory in information technology, and forces exerted on dielectrics by laser light. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society and has been the recipient of a number of awards including the Institute of Physics Thomas Young Medal and Prize (1987) and the Optical Society of America Max Born Award (1992).

The conference, entitled 50 Years of Semiconductor and Optics Research, is being supported by Rank Prize Funds and the Institute of Physics.


EU Shoal Project attracts Worldwide Media Attention

The Essex-based SHOAL Project has been featured in various international media publications during the last week. The project was recently awarded a share of £2.5 million to develop a school of advanced robotic fish to analyse contaminants in ports. The  full story appeared in i++ two weeks ago and further developments have been highlighted in The Telegraph and on Yahoo News


Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Conference

The Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Conference (CEEC), is organised by student researchers for student researchers and provides an ideal venue for people from the disciplines of Mathematics, Computer Science, Engineering, Biology and Finance to create a forum in which they may work together, discuss, compare and debate different innovative ideas and solutions. The Conference takes place on 3 July 2009 at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering here at the University of Essex, with an exact location to be confirmed.

Important dates
Paper Submission deadline: 31 May 2009
Notification: Monday 16 June 2009
Camera-ready Manuscript: 21 June 2009
Registration deadline: 30 June 2009
Conference day : 3 July 2009


Paper Accepted

B. Awwad Shiekh Hasan and J.Q. Gan, Unsupervised adaptive GMM for BCI, International IEEE EMBS Conf. on Neural Engineering, Antalya, Turkey, 2009.

Abstract - An unsupervised adaptive Gaussian mixture model is introduced for online brain-computer interfaces (BCI). The method is tested on two BCI data sets, demonstrating significant performance improvement in comparison with a static model.


9 March 2009


Results of IET Anglian Coastal Southern PATW

On 4 March 2009, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Anglian Coastal Network held the Southern Heat of its “Present Around The World” (PATW) regional competition here in the University.  This is the Institutions presentation competition for Younger Members. 

Competitors are asked to give a presentation for 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of questions from judges and peers.

Hon. Sec. David Higgins presenting 2nd Prize to Alex Harris

Six entrants competed for a 1st prize of £150 and a 2nd prize of £75, covering diverse range of topics.  After deliberation the panel of three judges awarded 1st prize to Adam Hill for his presentation on “Low Frequency Optimization in Small/Medium Sized Listening Rooms” and 2nd prize to Alex Harris for his presentation on “Modern Cryptography – The Magic Bullet of Computer Security?”. The prizes were presented by David Higgins, Honorary Secretary for IET Anglian Coastal Local Network.

Hon. Sec. David Higgins presenting 1st Prize to Adam Hill

The judges in summing up commended all entrants on both exceedingly high standard of presentation and the diverse and interesting selection of topics chosen.  The winner will be recommended to go forwards to the International Final at the end of the year for which the prize is the chance to present in a number of locations around the world with all expenses paid.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology is one of the world’s leading professional societies for the engineering and technology community. The IET has more than 150,000 members in 127 countries and has offices in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. The Institution provides a global knowledge network to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas and promotes the positive role of Science, Engineering and Technology in the world.  The Anglian Coastal Local Network covers the Norfolk, Suffolk and North Essex region.


CSEE Undergraduate finds placement with Frontrunners

Adriana AlexandruAdriana Alexandru, First Year BEng Computer Networks, has taken up a placement as Project Officer within the Academic Section of the University, thanks to the Frontrunners scheme developed by the Learning and Teaching Unit.
In her placement Adriana is helping to create a new Graduate School WebPage for Research Students. She is in charge of undertaking research into what PGR students want from the Graduate School WebPage and of creating a design brief for the new and improved WebPages. Her duties also include holding focus group meetings with a number of key stakeholders in the project in order to gain general information about what is expected from the WebPages.
Adriana is enthusiastic about her placement and the impact she hopes it will have on her future career plans; “I believe it is very important not to wait until the final years to start work experience. Improving skills in order to compete in the job market is probably the most essential activity one should carry out while studying at university.” Adriana feels that “because my work requires me to gather information from many stakeholders and work closely with my supervisor I gain some deeper understanding of what working as a team means, helping me develop an essential skill that employers are looking for.”
She has found that the placement has also aided her personal development as a student; “It helps improve my communication skills, my understanding of how a research project should be conducted (and) my ability to use the outcome of a research project.”
The Frontrunner scheme is a unique programme which takes an innovative approach to embedding employability, enterprise and commercial awareness within the student experience.  It explicitly links the identification of skills gaps to the acquisition and development of employability skills via paid work placements in the university and a supporting skills programme.  It also supports students in developing their ability to reflect on and articulate the skills they have acquired by using the University’s personal development planning tool: myLife
For more information on the Frontrunners project click here.


Paper Published

Alejandro Foullon-Perez and Simon M. Lucas, Orientational Features with the SNT-Grid, International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) 2009
Abstract - The Scanning N-Tuple Grid (SNT-Grid) has been demonstrated to be a fast classifier for 2-dimensional images. The high speed is accomplished by scanning separately along rows and columns to extract features and can process thousands of pre-segmented characters per second in training and recognition. This paper proposes the use of orientational features within the SNT-Grid and makes a comparison in performance with features previously reported in literature.  In terms of training the classifier, it explores cross entropy training and concludes that it outperforms more conventional maximum likelihood training. Finally, zoned orientational features offer a better implementation with  an additional cost in computational time for training and recognition. The best accuracy reported has reduced the error rate of the system by 70% on the same dataset.


Paper Accepted

Yevgeniya Kovalchuk, Maria Fasli, A Demand-Driven Approach for a Multi-Agent System in Supply Chain Management, Eleventh International Workshop on Agent Mediated Electronic Commerce (AMEC) at the Eighth International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS-2009), Budapest, Hungary, May 12, 2009.

2 March 2009


£2.5million funding for pollution monitoring at ports

Robotics researchers at the University of Essex have been awarded a share of £2.5 million to develop a school of advanced robotic fish to analyse contaminants in ports and produce a real-time map of which pollutants are present, in what concentrations and where these are on a 3D map of the port, namely the ‘SHOAL’ project.

The project, which involves 6 partners from 5 European countries and has been backed by the EU 7th Framework Programme Theme 3-ICT, will develop a cutting-edge method for monitoring pollution in ports.

SHOAL will use advanced swarm intelligence techniques to control and coordinate a school of robotic fish efficiently and adapt quickly to changes in the port environment. This will benefit not only monitoring operations in ports across the EU, but also lead to important advances in robotics, chemical analysis, underwater communications and robot intelligence.

Professor Huosheng Hu as a principal investigator will lead the Essex team, joined by Dr John Gan and Dr Dongbing Gu, to develop prototype robot fish which will function independently and as part of a larger group to analyse and monitor pollution in a port. These robotic fish will be equipped with chemical sensors to find pollutants in the water and modems to create an ad hoc network for communication within the swarm. This will allow the shoal of robot fish to build up a broad map of the pollutants moving through the port in real time.

Professor Hu said, 'We will focus on the development of two levers of complexity. One is a behaviour-based control system that is used to achieve good control stability and autonomous navigation performance of individual robotic fish. Another is based on swarm intelligence techniques that are used to implement a close collaboration among a school of robotic fish to maximise the coverage of the port.'

The technology developed through this joint project will not only enable port authority to gain increased mobility and flexibility to monitor ship-source pollution, but also enable them to monitor other types of harmful contaminants and other pollutants from underwater pipelines. Professor Hu continued: 'This is a very challenging project. One of the key challenges is to make the robotic fish fully autonomous, easy to use and able to meet the needs of the port. The issues such as data security, communication, and energy will also be interesting challenges.'

To contact Professor Hu for further information click here.


PhD Student interviewed on Sun Channel

Jenya KovalchukCSEE Research student Jenya Kovalchuk has been interviewed for Sun Microsystem's SDN Channel.  She talks about the Genetic Programming aspect of her PhD, the Computer Society (Essex OSUM club), her interests, and future plans. Click here for the interview.






Computer Society News

Sun Campus Visit

The Computer Society is organising a trip to the Sun Campus, which is located in Guillemont Park, Blackwater, Camberley on 25 March. The trip is scheduled to last for the whole day, and includes:

  • Transportation by minibus from the University campus and back
  • Lab tour with an expert
  • Tech demos by experts on various Sun technologies (topics to be confirmed from the provisional list: programming 3D world environments, JavaFX, Solaris OS, MySQL, and Netbeans)
  • Meeting Sun employees
  • Free lunch at the Sun catering outlet

The trip is free of charge; participants will only need to share the cost of the patrol. The places in the minibus are limited and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Those interested in joining the trip should contact Jenya Kovalchuk for further details and/or to book the place.


Forthcoming Seminar

13 March 2009, 3.00 - 4.00pm, Room 1N1.4.1

Speaker: Dr. Martin Kuball, Bristol University (hosted by Professor Naci Balkan)

Temperature, Stress and Hot Phonons in GaN Electronics and its Interfaces

Abstract - GaN power electronics has great potential for future radar and communication applications. Huge advances in their performance have made this new material system superior to GaAs and Si in particular in terms of power performance. However, there are still large reliability challenges which need to be addressed, often related to high device temperature and large stresses in the devices. Those are very challenging to assess as these are present only in sub-micron device regions typically located near the gate of an HEMT. I report on our work of the development of Raman thermography, to assess temperature, stress as well as hot phonon effects in AlGaN/GaN but also GaAs pHEMTs to address reliability challenges in power electronics. The techniques developed enable temperature and stress measurement in devices with submicron spatial and nanosecond time resolution. Effects of thermal cross-talk, but also heat transfer across interfaces in the devices will be discussed, together with hot-phonon effects.



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