The Area of Excellence in Information Technology(AoEIT) was supported by the University Grants
Committee (UGC) in 2000 to perform research, teaching, and knowledge exchange to assist the
transformation of Hong Kong into a knowledge-based economy, and to help fulfill China’s goal
of becoming a technology innovator. It was a joint project of the Chinese University of Hong
Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the University of Hong
Kong. Our strategy was to leverage our existing strengths in core information technologies and
their applications, and our research partnerships with distinguished local, Mainland and
research institutions, to perform research and development in this multi-disciplinary area. The project has strengthened inter-institutional
collaborations, as evidenced by joint research resulting in over 200
publications in prestigious international journals and
conferences. More than 20 teachers from the three universities
contributed to this project, and over 80 research postgraduate students were trained. In addition,
collaborations with Mainland and overseas institutions have been developed. In this article, we will summarize our work, highlight the key
contributions, and describe on-going research.
This AoEIT has made international impact, as evidenced by best paper awards, novel
prototype systems, one-of-a-kind test-beds, software, international collaborations, and other
accomplishments. The fundamental results and the salient outcomes of six research areas are
(A) Major Research Accomplishments
1. Multi-hop Wireless Networks
The research on multi-hop wireless networks resulted in two IEEE best paper awards. Due to
the increasing popularity of the 802.11 wireless local area network protocol, and the emerging
applications of multi-hop networks, this research topic drew the attention of many leading
researchers. The AoEIT team made two important contributions: (1) the invention of a theoretical
analytical model that explains the throughput limits in the network; and (2) the explanation of the fundamental cause behind throughput
oscillations in the network. Both phenomena had been observed in simulations and experimental
studies by many others, and now finally an analytical model to provide the fundamental
understanding is available. These results provide the foundation for designing future wireless
networks with performance surpassing today’s Wi-Fi.
2. Theoretical Analysis of Networks
AoEIT researchers investigated various theories of networking, e.g., Jackson’s Theorem and
Burke’s Theorem, and discovered some major discrepancies in these existing, well-known
theorems which could lead to misinterpretation in the understanding of network behavior. The
researchers were invited to present the work on various occasions, including a Distinguished
Lecture sponsored by a UK Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Visiting Fellowship at the
University of London in 2004.
3. Peer-to-Peer Network Test-bed
The research on multimedia streaming resulted in the development of a scalable peer-to-peer
platform for IPTV which takes advantage of the IP-multicast capability of the network. In
addition, a system for peer-to-peer interactive movies platform was developed. The commercial
possibility subsequently led to the funding of an Innovation and Technology Fund project in the
amount of HK$8 million to continue the secondphase development, which targeted the transfer
of the developed technology to the industry.
4. Network Security Test-bed
The AoEIT research team set up a network testbed for performing experiments on Distributed
Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks on the Internet. This test-bed consisted of three subnets at the
three AoEIT universities, connected by highspeed connections donated by Hutchison
Telecommunications. The test-bed consisted of over 100 Linux machines, some of which were
server-grade machines configured as software routers. Cisco hardware routers were used to
connect the three subnets. In addition, the team developed a software simulator that allowed
thousands of nodes to be simulated on a single machine and at the same time it could also
be run in parallel on multiple machines. The simulator allowed researchers to investigate the
scalability issues of our models. The AoEIT testbed was the largest of its kind for DDoS research.
It allowed low-level, event-based simulation to be performed.
5. Wireless Sensor Networks
Research in wireless sensor networks has received great attention in the last few years due to its
wide range of potential applications including environmental and habitat monitoring, health
care, and security surveillance. However, to realize the full potential this new technology,
there are many challenging technical issues requiring extensive research. An AoEIT team
devoted their efforts to this new area and achieved exciting results. In infrastructures,
the team developed Telos-compatible sensor nodes and built a sensor networks lab to enable
rich experimental research. Salient research contributions included distributed location
estimation methods, topology control, sensor emulator, and data aggregation methods.
6. Bilingual English-Chinese Reading
A Bilingual Reading Comprehension System is an automatic, open-domain question answering
system for English or Chinese documents. It can analyze a passage or document automatically,
and generate specific answers to questions that are posed by a user relating to the document.
It presents a novel approach of automatic information retrieval which could revolutionize
existing Web search. The AoEIT research was among the first of its kind that addressed the
problem of multilingual comprehension. The AoEIT team developed a bilingual corpus with
open-domain English and Chinese passages and questions to provide the context for our research
as well as for empirical evaluation. This bilingual corpus complements English-only corpora
used in previous work in English-only reading comprehension.
(B) Collaborations Fostered by AoEIT
The UGC’s support for AoEIT helped promote collaborations among the universities in Hong
Kong, and between the universities with other top universities and large companies around
the world. The collaborations in turn catalyzed many of the AoEIT research efforts, increasing the
visibility of the R&D accomplishments of Hong Kong to the world.
An example of the collaborations between Hong
Kong University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science
and Technology is the project on large scale DDoS systems. While there were many research
projects on DDoS defense schemes, the AoEIT IDR-based method was one of the very few that
had been physically implemented and stresstested with live traffic in a large-scale test-bed
environment. This kind of large-scale experimental networking research was only made possible
via the close collaboration among the three universities
An example of industrial collaborations is the
AoEIT research on video adaptation and real-time transcoding. The project was partially supported
by Smartone Ltd. and Ericsson. Smartone Ltd. field tested the system with great success. The
transcoding technology has been deployed commercially since 2007 and has more than
100,000 subscribers in Hong Kong. It has also been launched in Macau in 2010.
(C) Students and Researchers Trained by
The AoEIT also helped training many research students. A total of 85 postgraduate students
and 10 postdoc fellows were involved in AoEIT project. Research students and post-docs trained
by AoEIT are now making contributions in various academic and research institutions in Hong Kong,
the Mainland, and overseas.
Universities in Hong Kong have continued to
engage in forefront research in communications and networking after the conclusion of AoEIT.
The AoEIT research team on wireless networking research continues to generate exciting
results. A recent exciting development is in the field of
physical-layer network coding, an idea conceived by the research team that is becoming an
important subfield of network coding with wide followings recently. Some of the research efforts
in this arena are being sponsored by the new AoE project in Network Coding now.
The University of Hong Kong together with
the Chinese University of Hong Kong and City University of Hong Kong, has recently been
awarded a HK$5.58 million RGC Collaborative Research Fund project, entitled “Smart Grid.”
Smart grid is the integration of information technologies with the traditional power grid. This
joint project aims to design innovative means to manage and control the electricity generation
and distribution network using communication network, sensor network, power electronics, and
control technologies. A novel hybrid simulation laboratory will be built to test the research results
in innovative designs for efficient communication, computing and control of smart grids.
Prof Victor On Kwok LI
The University of Hong Kong
Prof Soung Chang LIEW
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Prof Roland CHIN
Formerly in the Hong Kong University
of Science and Technology