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Technologies of the information society

Demonstration in Munkácsy Street

How will the technology of the information society look like? The answer to the question changes relatively frequently because the vision is always modified by new records. Researchers, developers and technology developers are getting to overtake the user demands. It is not accidental that the programs of the European Union attach an increasing importance to the presentation and demonstration of the results. The National Host of Hungary undertook to demonstrate the most recent results of domestic manufacturers and service providers and the trends of development. From the autumn, small groups can come to visit the achievements and technical opportunities of the information society in a modernly equipped studio at Munkácsy Mihály utca 16. Dr. Zsolt Balassy talked about the demonstration of high bandwidth image and voice transmission and the establishment of a laboratory or a studio with professional videoconferencing capabilities.

- We set complex goals already in 1998 - said the Managing Director of the National Host of Hungary. "We decided to promote Hungarian participation in the 5th research, technology development and demonstration framework program of the European Union, with particular regard to the projects of the information society, to contribute to the training of those interested in the framework program and organise exchange of views abroad to help the experts of our member companies get more information.

- But there is something else that has really determined the unique image of the Host...

- That's true. We also decided to demonstrate the new opportunities of the information society, using the most advanced IT and telecommunications equipment and technologies. The experts of various areas, businessmen and private individuals will all be able to get acquainted with the solutions that best serve their goals. They will have an unparallelled opportunity to have a look at and compare the new innovations. The industry will also benefit from the views of future users and from the comparison of competing products, technologies, services and applications.

- What happened in the period between the setting and initial implementation of the goal?

- We were doing thorough design work. An extensive group of experts surveyed the available high-speed broadband technologies and those in the stage of development. They presented the advantages, disadvantages and prospects of the different solutions. They gave a clear view of the results and circumstances of the development of wire and wireless technologies. They gathered information, among other things, about the feasibility of extending the previously imagined functions of the demonstration laboratory to other areas such as the promotion of education or quality control.

- One can think that the promotion of education or quality control is a rewarding topic...

- It generally is, but it is not necessarily true in our case. Many global companies are engaged in the development and modernisation of laboratory background for the educational institutions in Budapest. The situation is pleasingly similar in other towns, for example in Győr. Support from additional sources is likely to find its place but our main focus is to create an opportunity for competition-neutral demonstrations that are open to everyone. The tests and measurements of new products and technologies and the determination of their usability may require documentation which better fits into the profile of a business venture than the Society.

- What about wire and wireless technologies?

- We should concentrate on wire technologies at the moment. Mobile service providers have their well-equipped research laboratories where every condition is available for the future reception, adoption and development of high-speed mobile communications technologies. There is no need for building a similar laboratory here. The wireless connection of computers is seen as an important area, too, but we think these technologies do not affect the everyday life of the members of the information society so much as wire technologies do.

- And what if these trends change?

- We cannot settle in forever. We are aware that the pace of development in infocommunication may make today's advanced equipment and technologies outdated in one or two years. Our general meeting take into consideration the current and expected demands before making a decision on the further development of the lab. But until then, we have to build upon the real possibilities of today and tomorrow. There are phone lines in most of the homes and the use of cables with two-way broadband data communication capabilities at high speeds is also becoming widespread. ISDN is now cheaper and more easily available. The traditional copper lines will soon be able to deliver the higher bandwidth ADSL and xDSL technologies. The number of Internet users triples or quadruples each year. More and more people demand professional ATM solutions. Packet switched X.25 and Frame Relay networks continue to survive and develop to serve heavy users. We are sure we can offer a wide variety of solutions for the different communications problems even by using existing infrastructure.

- What steps were taken once the goal was set?

- First of all we needed a switching equipment for the safe and high-level management of voice, data and image information transmitted by means of different procedures. After the calling of the tender and competition of the manufacturers we decided to buy a 34 megabit Alcatel switching centre capable of ATM transmission. The new equipment - which is still in the phase of market introduction - enables high bandwidth fast data transmission between the Host, Antenna Hungária, GTS Hungary, Matáv, Vivendi and other service providers. Whatever innovation they want to demonstrate they can do it at our headquarters.

We also need an experimental studio where small groups of professionals or all those interested can hold videoconferences with their partners in Hungary or in any part of the world. The lessor of our rented property at Munkácsy Mihály utca 16 allowed us to attach additional areas and make the necessary conversions. In early July we can start to develop the studio with the required lighting and acoustic capabilities. The work is expected to be finished by the end of the month.

We need to provide for appropriate video equipment, coding and encoding units, screens, cameras and a control panel. The equipment of Synergon was found to best suit our needs. It will be deployed and tested when the studio is complete. We expect to welcome the first visitors in September.

- What opportunities will be offered to the visitors of the demonstration laboratory?

- They can take their seats in a comfortable studio and see their partners, perhaps also themselves, on a monitor or monitors placed on the wall. By using the camera, the acoustic system and the broadband network they can keep lifelike contact even with multiple similarly equipped sites. The high quality of voice and video makes them feel like sitting in the same room with their partners. We must take into consideration, of course, that most of the studios in Hungary use less fast networks, simpler cameras and cheaper equipment and many of the visitors can afford less advanced solutions only. We will show them that even a simpler system should not necessarily be of inferior quality or unreliable. We have to show them a range of solutions from which they can choose the one that best suits their needs and they can prepare for their gradual replacement and upgrade, knowing the trends of development.

- I guess not only IT, telecommunications and multimedia devices will be shown to those who visit the laboratory...

- No, because we have committed ourselves to demonstrating the different new potentials of the information society and this can make the program inexhaustably rich and diverse. Not right now, of course, but in the course of time when the new opportunities offered by the demonstration lab are already widely known. We want to assist those who wish to find the new potentials of the society of the future, who have good ideas but lack the necessary infrastructure to execute, display or demonstrate their plans. Almost every aspect of life can be addressed from "tailored" educational materials to educational or movie films downloadable on demand at home from the network. If it is up to us, we will function as a multiplex movie theatre where different films are on every day.

- What sort of new opportunities does this technology offer to education, for example?

- If you have a computer and you can access the Internet, you can download different text files, data or tables. You can even search through them. But you will face difficulties if you want to model something and display the model on a traditional network. It would be good sometimes to insert videos in the study material or display the lecture of an excellent teacher by means of video and voice. Much time and travel could be saved with interactive consultation blocks when a live broadcast is created between the teacher and the student. This can be realised by a little organisation effort and by using a new approach to the development of the curriculum. It is significantly cheaper to develop the technology than establishing, expanding and maintaining a new educational institution and paying the travel expenses or rental of the students who live in distant places.

- If you mention the costs may I ask you how will the Host finance the demonstration laboratory?

- This is not a secret. A considerable amount of membership fees has been accumulated and a little of it has been spent since our establishment in 1998. We work with minimum staff and administration, with no major expenses. We participated in the tenders of KHVM (Ministry of Transport, Communication and Water Management) and received money on multiple occasions from the funds appropriated for the financing of new technologies. Almost in two years, we could purchase the best equipment newly introduced in the market. It was not absolutely necessary but we always followed the public procurement procedures to be able to purchase the most advanced products at affordable prices. As I have mentioned before, we have to face quick depreciation of our equipment and software and the need for upgrades and replacements due to the rapid development of the industry. But we can preserve the high standard of the laboratory by perfectly completing our tasks and efficiently contributing to the exploration and demonstration of the new potentials of the information society to the satisfaction of our partners. We believe the fees will contribute to the maintenance and upgrade of the laboratory as and when needed.

Copyright © MNH 1999
Last updated: 09-02-2001

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