The FLAME Vision and Objectives

Society is increasingly reliant on rich and interactive digital content to enhance and support almost all aspects of life. Sports, music, television, art, fashion, business, education, medicine, interior design, retail, and just about anything people do is affected by digital content. Production processes are increasingly digitised. Demand is shifting towards Personalised, Interactive, Mobile and Localised (PIML) content. Supply chains are being transformed from linear distribution to adaptive processes that incorporate participatory media from consumers.

This trend puts the creative and ICT industries responsible for production, management and distribution of digital content as critical players for Europe’s economy. Success depends on establishing transformative market structures that benefit everyone from consumers and content providers through to the operators of communications, transport and building infrastructures. FLAME is major 7M EUR initiative to explore the structural transformation of media ecosystems caused by increasing software-defined infrastructures and its impact on operators and sectors of the creative industries. FLAME brings together leading industrial players and researchers along with smart city operators to carry out urban-scale experimentation of future media services using adaptive infrastructures.

Today’s content delivery platforms support on-demand access and adaptive quality levels whilst optimising network bandwidth and storage costs. In addition, advances in metadata management, broadband communications, device performance and versatile applications have helped drive the creation of platforms enabling the flow of petabytes of high-definition audio-visual content to millions of online viewers. Consumers are increasingly watching audio-visual content through on-demand online services delivered in individual streams, and interacting through new multimedia applications such as immersive and mobile gaming that stretch the current network infrastructure and management systems beyond their limits. These Over-The-Top (OTT) solutions provide some awareness of network performance, they do not directly interact with underlying network management functions. The consequence is non-optimal resource allocations causing either overprovisioning costs for network operators or poorer Quality of Experience for consumers. It’s here, at the boundary between media service providers and network operators that FLAME will be working.

FLAME will build a media service platform that brings together media services with cloud, service routing and switching in ways that allow for dynamic operational flexibility. This includes the switching hardware deployed deep in the network and towards the edge of it, near end users and even on end user devices. At the compute and storage management level, Service Function Chains (SFCs) define networks of media services, utilising the infrastructure through Network Function Virtualization (NFV). The platform will be deployed within real-life smart city environments around Europe offering open and programmable infrastructure capabilities that integrate software defined networking (SDN) enabled by optical, wireless, sensor mesh and computing resources.

The approach moves away from traditional data centre cloud resources to computing infrastructure distributed across service providers and network operators, located at the edge of the network in small gateways or in common-off-the-shelf hardware collocated with network equipment close to users. This paradigm shift is consistent with industry efforts in the Mobile Edge Computing. FLAME adopts an experimental paradigm to incrementally create multi-stakeholder knowledge about the viability of media services and platform considering optimal distribution of information and control between stakeholders. FLAME’s open and trusted approach will allow different stakeholders to gain insight into the performance, acceptance and viability of solutions including potential governance arrangements between them.

FLAME will target the acceptance and viability of Interactive Media Systems in real-life settings considering the expected future demand patterns. FLAME aims to create knowledge about the platform and its use through over 20 experiments and trials exploring different platform capabilities and user experiences. The outcomes aim to improve experience for consumers, reduce the complexity of media service development, reduce the cost of delivering personalised on-demand content, whilst allowing infrastructure providers to become creators of digital innovation driving local socio-economic growth. The new platform emerging from FLAME will initially be deployed in the smart-cities of Bristol and Barcelona with advanced network access points located across the cities and will later be rolled out to three further cities in Europe through a competitive open call.

Between 2018 and 2020, FLAME will invest over €2 million in a programme of open calls to grow media ecosystems in cities around Europe.

The programme provides a unique opportunity for players from the creative industries, telecommunications industries and smart cities to run trials in urban scale environments and evaluate the acceptance and viability of new forms of experience and social interaction.