SOBAFramework to Be Released in July
NTT COMWARE Participation Promises to Speed Up Commercialization
The SOBA (Session Oriented Broadband Applications) Project, a corporate-academic joint R&D project based in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, and led by Professor Reiji Nakajima of Kyoto University, is developing a new form of software for the broadband age. The alpha version of the SOBA Framework, which enables multiple Internet users to communicate over a shared space, will be released in July for evaluation purposes. The SOBA Project was launched in September 2001 by research groups from Kyoto University, Keio University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo University, and Waseda University, in collaboration with OMRON Corporation (head office: Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto; CEO: Yoshio Tateishi).
Development of both the framework and applications was recently accelerated by the participation of NTT COMWARE CORPORATION (head office: Minato-ku, Tokyo; president: Yuji Matsuo), enabling the start of verification testing this year as a step toward commercialization. Backed by its experience in developing and operating a wide variety of information and communications systems in Japan, NTT COMWARE brings to the Project a wealth of technical development capabilities for integrating applications over IP networks, and a strong track record and expertise in leading business innovation projects based on IP technologies. The participation of NTT COMWARE to the SOBA Project adds considerable strength to the partnership. The SOBA Project also intends to continue seeking additional partners who share its outlook on the project and wish to provide support.
With the SOBA Framework, users can easily create communication "sessions" on the Internet, change the sessions as desired, and share streaming audio/video data and applications among themselves in real-time. This opens the door to extremely advanced levels of communication over broadband networks. The information exchange is done on a P-to-P (peer-to-peer) basis among computers rather than going through a server, thereby achieving a framework for building communications applications based on dynamic multi-sessions that allow users to create, integrate, divide, hand over, and close sessions over the network at will. The SOBA Framework also includes functions that enable users to easily create their own communications applications without requiring specialized knowledge in programming or telecommunications.
An example of an application using the SOBA Framework is "distance education" using a virtual classroom session over the Internet. In this case, the teacher and students share screen images of the subject matter being studied along with the handwriting and other information that the teacher presents for explanation. If it is necessary to split the students into groups during the process, the virtual classroom can easily be divided. The teacher can still monitor the conditions in each of the divided groups to continue with his or her instruction, while the students can only see the conditions within their own group. If the teacher then decides to show the results of the divided group sessions to the entire class, the groups can be integrated once again into the original classroom. The Waseda University research group, led by Professor Yoshihiko Futamura, recently began development of a system for this kind of distance education application.
The alpha version of the SOBA Framework, which is aimed at companies interested in developing applications for the SOBA Project, will be released at a SOBA Conference to be held in July. The SOBA Project and the companies that develop applications will cooperate to raise the inherent value of the Soba Framework by creating applications based on the framework. The SOBA Conference is envisioned as an important venue for projects to begin cooperating in the development of highly marketable applications, and in further enhancing the framework to allow smooth execution of the new applications.
The development road map calls for initial testing of the SOBA Framework and applications this year by broadband enterprises and ordinary users, to verify stability and marketability. The release of a beta version of the SOBA Framework reflecting the results of the verification tests is then scheduled for next year for user evaluation, together with the start of R&D aimed at mobile and ubiquitous implementation.
A non-profit organization is planned around the existing SOBA Project to guide the development and promotion of its open-source software. An organizational model of an entity called tentatively SOBA, Inc. is also being formed to provide user support for a commercial version of the SOBA Framework in the future.
ADSL, optical access, and other forms of broadband infrastructure are being rapidly deployed today, but they are presently limited to uses such as moving pictures, with no real communication breakthroughs in sight. The appearance of this open-source software, which allows free use of the SOBA Framework by both individuals and companies, aims to capture a large share of the market for services in the age of broadband communications. While the "e-Japan" concept is presently moving to improve the nation's network hardware infrastructure, the many possibilities in broadband communications offered by the SOBA Framework promise to balance this effort by covering the software infrastructure as well.
Based on the philosophy that the SOBA Framework should be developed, maintained and improved by collaboration among universities, companies, software developers, and ordinary users, the SOBA Project aims to form Japan's largest open-source community, and to eventually include the support and participation of companies and organizations worldwide.
SOBA R&D Organization and Areas of Study
1.Kyoto University group led by Professor Reiji Nakajima, Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences (Computer Science)
-- Core R&D --
2.Keio University group led by Professor Tatsuya Hagino, Dept. of Environmental Information (Computer Science)
-- R&D on a distance tutoring system--
3.Tokyo Institute of Technology group led by Professor Etsuya Shibayama, Dept. of Mathematical and Computing Sciences (Computer Science)
-- Network security research --
4.Tokyo University group led by Professor Akinori Yonezawa, Dept. of Information Science, School of Science (Computer Science)
-- Network security research --
5.Waseda University group led by Professor Yoshihiko Futamura, Dept. of Information and Computer Science, Dept. of Science and Engineering (Computer Science)
-- R&D on a distance tutoring system--
R&D on a support environment for developing the SOBA Framework and applications
2.NTT COMWARE CORPORATION
R&D on SOBA Framework security and directories, verification testing under actual broadband conditions, and application development
SOBA Framework Functions
The SOBA Framework allows you to:
- Create virtual communication spaces (sessions) on the Internet.
- Dynamically change sessions.
- Use both static data, such as files and still images, and streaming audio and video data within sessions.
- Share applications within sessions, and edit data by multiple users simultaneously.
- Maintain complete independence from screen type (for example, use the Framework on the small screen of a cellular phone, or use it with no screen at all by inputting command lines).
- Create your own applications without requiring advanced, specialized knowledge.
- Easily create applications that have a different user interface for each user.
Application Fields Utilizing the SOBA Framework
Managing team projects, conferences, joint research, and classrooms, and providing remote diagnosis.
Communication with customers and local residents, user support, and shareholder meetings.
Face-to-face sales, order-made products, and tourist information.
4.Market place/supply chain
Procurement, auctions, distributed catalogs.
Video distribution, video chats, personal broadcasting stations.
Games, medical data transfers
A communications network based on Internet Protocol.
The name for a system in which all of the computers connected to a network have an equal relationship. Each computer is able to operate as both a server (offering services) and a client (receiving services).
Distributing and playing multimedia data (moving pictures, sounds) on the Internet in real-time.
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