Future Cities

Ecosystem : Future Cities UP

To enable the University of Porto to become a key European player in the emerging scientific and technological field, the Center of Competence for Future Cities was built on the expertise of several research groups that have attained international recognition for their research programmes in topics relevant to Future Cities. Originating from different schools (Sciences, Engineering, Psychology and Education Sciences), these research groups use very diverse methodologies and scientific approaches. This support action creates the necessary conditions for these groups to work together in a multidisciplinary way, thus fostering future research collaboration and increasing the innovation potential of the University of Porto and its industrial partners. As a multidisciplinary project, the work developed within the Future Cities involves several Research and Development Groups, all with proven experience in what concerns Information and Communication Technologies.

Core R&D Groups:

Networking and Information Security Group (NIS)

Led by Professor João Barros, NIS has achieved international recognition for its results on physical layer security, network coding and sensor networks, all of which can be used as building blocks for smart city architectures and applications. By applying fundamental principles of information theory, they have found new ways of communicating securely and efficiently in highly dynamic environments such as wireless networks and peer-to-peer networks. Physical-layer security technologies in the form of codes and protocols developed under his leadership allow wireless systems to exploit the noise in the communication channel to prevent eavesdroppers from extracting key information. The use of network coding in combination with some of the algorithms developed by João Barros' group within the FP7 project NCRAVE enables network operators to decrease the overall delay and increase the robustness of their systems. Instead of storing and forwarding copies of whatever they receive, nodes in the network use simple linear operations to combine the different data packets. The destination no longer has to wait for a specific data packet, because it only needs to receive a sufficient number of combinations to recover the original information.
Recently, this group of 3 faculty members, 3 post-docs and 20 PhD students, has also been very active in the area of vehicular networking as a key enabler in intelligent transportation systems. In cooperation with MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, they are investigating how cars, buses and other vehicles can be used as a massive urban scanner by picking up large quantities of measurements from different sensors, sharing this data over wireless channels and delivering the information to a data center for further processing. Dr. Barros is the recipient of the 2010 IEEE Communications Society Young Researcher Award for Europe, Middle East and Africa.


Psychosocial Rehabilitation Group (PR)

Professor Cristina Queirós leads the PR, which is working closely with engineers and computer scientists on how ICT can affect and assist human end users in traffic situations and emergency scenarios. The group of one faculty member, one post-doc and 8 PhD students has extensive experience on quantitative methods for addressing stress, burnout, personality traits and emotions in professional firefighters, police officers, teachers, physicians and nurses. They are also experienced in the rehabilitation of people with schizophrenia and autistic disorder. Their work is currently funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).


Interactive Multimedia Group (IMAG)

IMAG is led by Professors Miguel Coimbra and Verónica Orvalho, who are developing solutions based on video signal processing, machine learning and computer animation for a variety of challenges in health care, entertainment and assisted living. In the FP7 project VERE, the group leads the work package on visual reconstruction and synthesis of virtual characters with cinematographic quality. In project GOLEM, also funded by FP7, the group is working on an automatic rigging system for 3D characters and the development of an interactive facial muscle animation system. Together with researchers at UT Austin, they are also addressing how autistic children can learn facial emotions using serious games. Research efforts on biomedical signal processing currently target the segmentation of videos captured by endoscopic capsules and the characterization of stress and fatigue using wearable heart monitoring technologies.


Geo-Networks Group (GN)

The interests of the GN of Professor Michel Ferreira lie in the area of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). They are especially interested in Cooperative ITS, where inter-vehicle communication plays an important role. Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks (VANET), mobility simulation and spatio-deductive databases are currently at the center of a number of projects funded by FCT. Vehicular Networks are a particular case of systems where the geographical awareness of nodes is crucial in the design of protocols and applications. A current major goal of their research is the efficient design of large-scale distributed systems that use communication without infrastructure support to self-organize based on spatial reasoning. The main achievements of this group include a very efficient large-scale traffic simulator for the city of Porto, which features vehicle-to-vehicle communication and the on-going deployment of a real-life VANET, as described in more detail below.


Machine Learning and Computer Vision Group (MLCV)

Under the leadership of Professor Jaime Cardoso, the MLCV is establishing itself as a strong player in optical recognition systems, images segmentation and video tracking algorithms. Real-life applications range from the detection of breast cancer to reading musical scores. Dr. Cardoso is the PI of several projects funded by FCT. The most recent one is aimed at applying some of his algorithms to network operations and management.


Distributed Real-Time and Embedded Systems Group (DARTES)

DARTES, of Professor Luis Almeida, received a best paper award for its results on adaptive communication protocols for teams of robots. This is just one example of their work, which combines communication and control methodologies in order to meet challenging requirements in terms of quality-of-service and real-time delivery. Other areas of research include multimedia streaming, scheduling problems, and the design and operation of embedded systems. The group currently hosts two post-docs and three PhD students.


Information Theory and Communication Systems Group (ITCS)

Professor Miguel Rodrigues leads the ITCS, which has published extensively in the areas of estimation theory and information theory for wireless and optical communications. Their main achievements include a characterization of the fundamental limits of secure communication over wireless channels and the design of precoders for multiple-input multiple-output channels. The group has one post-doc and six PhD students currently investigating the capacity of various communication channels and coding algorithms with close-to-optimal performance. Another line of research concerns the application of advanced estimation algorithms to infer the state of a large-scale network. Dr. Rodrigues is a PI and Co-PI of several projects funded by the FCT.


Social Computing Group (SC)

The SC of Professor Eduarda Rodrigues gathered vast experience in working with multidisciplinary teams and projects involving computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, designers and sociologists. Their research broadly covers the areas of data mining and web information retrieval, with particular emphasis on social network mining and user-centered technologies for social computing. The group is currently involved in several projects funded by FCT and the private sector, which address how to retrieve, extract and aggregate online content. Other activities are targeted towards effective data mining techniques for characterizing user behavior in online communities.


Networked Systems and Control Group (NSC)

The activities of the NSC, led by João Sousa, are focused on the development of a scientific framework for the systematic design and deployment of networked vehicle and sensor systems in new applications with strong societal and scientific impact, such as oceanographic or environmental surveys with high temporal and spatial resolution. This is an inter-disciplinary effort that builds on advances in (1) dynamic networks of hybrid automata; (2) hierarchical architecture design for semi-automated, distributed teams of agents; (3) human intervention in mission planning and execution; and (4) models of systems with evolving structure. This group, which has 3 post-docs and 8 PhD students, has also been investigating nontrivial collaborative control problems in the dynamic programming framework. In this framework it is investigating the interactions between optimal vehicle control and optimal group control and also the value of cooperation.


Network Operations Group (NOp)

Professor Ricardo Morla leads the NOp, which focuses on modelling and managing IT systems with an emphasis on probabilistic and machine learning approaches to networks and ambient intelligence. Recent projects funded by FCT and the Luso-American Foundation include applications for home based health care provision and fast prototyping of pervasive applications, respectively. The group also works on characterizing traffic flows in large networks with wireless access points. Another line of research is targeted towards virtual worlds and their impact on the operation of communication networks. Dr. Morla was the recipient of the 2006 Deutsche-Telekom “Sentient Future Competition” award.