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  Development and Study of Hybrid Photovoltaic Cells

  Interfaces between Fullerenes and Semiconductor Nanowires: Nanofabrication and Photoinduced Charge Separation

  Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy: 
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  On the Architecture of Synapses

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  Area of Excellence in Information Technology

  RGC Collaborative Research Fund – Layman Summaries of Projects Funded in 2010/11 Exercise

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 overseas 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 summarized below. 

(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 Comprehension
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 AoEIT
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. 

Ongoing Research 
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 Technolog