RESEARCH

The research activity is centered on the definition of advanced programming languages, systems and architecture and on their development and experimentation in the context of emerging application domains. It is mainly focused on the following research areas: wireless sensor networks (WSN), content delivery networks (CDN), vehicular area networks (VAN), agent-based systems (ABS), e IP-based multimedia networking (IPMN), workflow management systems (WFMS).

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN)

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) are currently emerging as one of the most disruptive technologies enabling and supporting next generation ubiquitous and pervasive computing scenarios. However, programming WSN applications is a complex task due to the hard constraints of the wireless sensor nodes in terms of limited resources (computing power, memory, and communications) and to the lack of proper and effective software abstractions. The research activity focuses on the development of new methodologies, frameworks and techniques for the rapid development of WSN applications in important application domains such as health-care, energy building monitoring, social interactions.

Domain Specific Frameworks and Systems for Heterogeneous Wireless Body Sensor Networks
The design of health care systems based on WSNs is complex, particularly due to the challenge of implementing intensive signal processing algorithms for data interpretation on highly resource limited  wireless nodes, and have to meet hard wearability and battery duration requirements. Furthermore, debugging software on sensor nodes is very difficult and time consuming due to the lack of support architecture in embedded operating systems; redeploying the debugged code on the actual sensing devices takes significant amount of time as well. In such context, an important result of the research activity is the SPINE (Signal Processing In-Node Environment) framework, jointly developed with the Telecom WSN Lab in Berkeley, for the rapid prototyping of systems based on heterogeneous Wireless Body Sensor Networks (WBSNs) which require an efficient in-node processing and effective classification algorithms at the base station side. The experimentation of SPINE has been carried out both to evaluate efficiency and effectiveness of the developed frameworks and to build a real-time system based on wearable sensors for the human activity monitoring. Furthermore, A SPINE-based research prototype of a system for collaborative detection of the handshaking gesture, using a single wrist-attached body sensor node per person has been jointly developed with the TKN group of TUB (Germany) in the framework of the CONET project. Moreover, a new macroprogramming language for task-oriented distributed computing in WSNs has been defined and its related run-time architecture, both generic and optimized for nesC/TinyOS, has been implemented. Such language and architecture will form the basis for SPINE 2.0, the future under-development release of the SPINE framework.

Agent-oriented Middleware for WSN
Mobile agents are a distributed computing paradigm based on code mobility that has already demonstrated high effectiveness and efficiency in IP-based highly dynamic distributed environments. Due to their intrinsic characteristics, mobile agents may provide more benefits in the context of WSNs than in conventional distributed environments. A research outcome is MAPS (Mobile Agent Platform for Sun SPOT), an innovative Java-based framework for wireless sensor networks based on Sun SPOT technology which enables agent-oriented programming of WSN applications. The MAPS architecture is based on components which interact through events. Each component offers a minimal set of services to mobile agents which are modeled as multi-plane state machines driven by ECA rules. In particular, the offered services include message transmission, agent creation, agent cloning, agent migration, timer handling, and easy access to the sensor node resources (sensors, actuators, input switches, flash memory, and battery). A performance evaluation of MAPS has been carried out by computing micro-benchmarks, related to agent communication, creation and migration. Moreover MAPS has been also used to build a real-time system based on wearable sensors for the human activity monitoring.

Energy building monitoring frameworks based on WSN
Building management controlled by wireless sensor networks (WSNs) is an emerging research area that include a number of interesting applications such as activity pattern recognition, adaptive load shifting and building energy profiling in domestic and industrial settings. The management of heterogeneous sensor nodes within a building context, which include monitoring and actuation nodes via intelligent wireless plugs, poses novel research challenges in how to partition the space and dynamically control devices. This research activity is developing, jointly with the Clarity Center of UCD (Ireland), a novel framework for building management to support heterogeneous platforms, which is based on set theory for dynamic sensor grouping and adaptive size transmission. The framework consists of an in-network low-level processing and a high-level processing at PC side. The framework has been implemented and tested in TinyOS. Results show an increase in reliability with respect to existing transmission schemes that can be traded off to reduce energy consumption.

Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) have emerged as an innovative technology to improve the efficiency of static, time-dependent and rich media content delivery atop large-scale IP-based networks. In particular, CDNs maintain geographically distributed clusters of surrogate servers, positioned at the network edge, that store copies of identical content, so that users’ requests can be met by the optimal surrogates. The benefits of using CDNs are significant and involve not only more efficient content delivery but also decongestion of the network core.
The research activity is focused on distributed architectures for the clusterization of the CDN surrogates to improve cache hit ratio, reduce user perceived latency time, and increase CDN utilization.

Agent-Based Systems (ABS)

Agent-based computing has shown great potential and flexibility for designing and developing complex distributed systems and applications, in terms of agent-based or multi-agent systems, in a variety of industrial sectors ranging from telecommunications to manufacturing. In fact software agents are particularly suited for developing applications that require distributed components which collaborate on common goals or compete to maximize their results.
The research activity aims at defining methodologies, techniques and applications based on agents for the rapid development of complex software systems. In particular, a main objective is to enhance JADE with new behaviors based on Statecharts and its derivatives (e.g. UML state machine, Distilled StateCharts). An interesting outcome is the definition of a new JADE behaviour named DistilledStatechartBehaviour which is compliant with the Distilled StateCharts (DSCs) formalism, along with the development/enhancement of automated tools for the visual modelling and automatic code generation of agent behaviour specifications based on DSCs.

Vehicular Area Networks (VANET)

Vehicular area networks (VANETs) comprise vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications based on wireless local area network technologies. The distinctive set of candidate applications (e.g., collision warning and local traffic information for drivers), resources (licensed spectrum, rechargeable power source), and the environment (e.g., vehicular traffic flow patterns, privacy concerns) make the VANET a unique area of wireless communications. Typically, applications are categorized as safety, transport efficiency, and infotainment applications. The research activity, jointly carried out with the group led Prof. P. Manzoni at Universidad Politecnica de Valencia (Spain), is focused on the development of delivery techniques and systems of multimedia objects to mobile users within VANET.

Workflow Management Systems (WFMS)

With the large diffusion of Business Process Management (BPM) automation suites, the need for more accurate process monitoring is arisen. An innovative sensor-based architecture for business process monitoring has been defined and a working implementation of its has been realised for the YAWL System. Sensors are defined at design time to specify certain conditions on the execution of a given process model. At run time, a sensor manager activates all sensors defined for the various process models being executed, and collects the results of their analysis. Sensors analyse the events produced by a BPM engine, can associate these events to process logs, can filter them through the use of special conditions and send notications to the sensor manager if a situation of interest occurs. In turn, the sensor manager interacts with the monitor component of a BPM suite to visualize the results to the end user, e.g. a process administrator who can take remedial actions.

IP-based Multimedia Networking (IPMN)

Multimedia can roughly be defined as a technology that enables humans to use computers capable of processing textual data, audio and video, still pictures, and animation. Applications range over entertainment, education, information provision, design e.g. CAD/CAM, co-operative working such as video conferencing, application sharing, remote working and virtual reality experiences. IP-based multimedia networking specifically refers to application models, protocols, techniques and systems for the development of distributed multimedia applications over IP-based networks.
The research activity focuses on multimedia middleware for the development of media streaming applications and agent-based systems for multimedia social networking ad-hoc.