The Hack4Med hackathon: building services on open data

Virtual Trip’s long experience in designing and developing information systems and services for the public and private sector, and our research and market commitment to the “internet of things”, made us appreciate early the importance of “open data” and the possibilities they offer.

“Open data” being, as you may know, the casual name for data sources that are made available for free by the state or by private enterprises and organisations. Data that can be as trivial as the telephone directory and as elaborate as climate measurements, and that can be leveraged to built third-party services.

As the international experience shows us, when “open data” are made available, tons of services and applications soon emerge that use them in novel and innovative ways to the benefit of the public. State measurements of air pollutants per region can be used to warn people with respiratory issues to avoid certain areas. Real time air traffic data can be used to display arrivals and departures for airports of interest. Both are examples of existing mobile applications. Many a startup has been founded on open data.

Of course it’s not just about small startups — “open data” have also been leveraged in services offered by established companies. The OpenStreetMap geolocation data that power iOS’s maps is just one such recent example.

That said, the simplicity of building an application or service that leverages some data source to present it to the public in a more convenient way makes “open data” especially suited to startups and small programming teams. After all it doesn’t take lots of capital and expensive equipment to query and display some data — and sometimes that’s all it takes to build a useful application. In fact, a talented programmer or a small team can even produce something useful during a hackathon (a contest in which programmers compete in building an application in a short time, usually up to a day).

With the above in mind, Virtual Trip is a proud sponsor of the Hack4Med hackathon, a programming marathon that will take place in five different EU countries simultaneously, as part of the HOMER (Harmonizing Open data in the Mediterranean through better access and Reuse of public sector information) programme.

Hack4Med aims to produce applications (either web or mobile) that leverage open data to solve issues related to tourism, culture, energy, aggricutlure and the environment.

The hackathon will commence on the afternoon of Friday, May 16th, and finish on the night of Saturday, May 17th. In Greece, Hack4Med will take place on the premises of the Computer Science department of the University of Crete, in Voutes (Heraklion).

More information about participating on the Hack4Med hackathon is available here:

Dancing with CHOReOS

Virtual Trip might be a mighty strong enterprise solutions provider (with tons of successful projects and happy clients) but we also take research very seriously ― not just in the form of R&D for future products, but also cutting edge academic research.

In fact, we are proud to have just completed another such major research project, helping create the CHOReOS Integrated Development and Runtime Environment. The project, which tackles the problem of running ultra large scale internet services that work with huge amounts of heterogeneous devices, was developed by a consortium of academic organisations and industry partners from six European countries under EU’s Seventh Framework programme.

But what is CHOReOS exactly? Without getting into technical jargon, we can explain it by the problem it tries to solve, which is that our current approaches of organising networked devices break down in a world where everything, from our cellphone to our fridge, are networked (the “internet of things”) and intertwined into a huge amount of services (the “internet of services”). A world, in other words, which we are rapidly approaching, as the number of smart connected devices is estimated to surpass 2.2 billion units in 2017.

CHOReOS tackles this very problem of organising an inordinate amount of devices (since everything that can *will* be connected) that are also heterogeneous (since they have different technical specifications and understand different protocols). It does so by doing away with the old approach of “orchestrating” them (where there is a service that acts as a conductor and control is centralised and local) and replacing it with the notion of “choreography” (which is distributed, in the same way that dancers follow some general instructions without a single point of control).

CHOReOS (from the Greek “choros”, meaning dance) is a middleware technology that enables the execution of distributed coordination logic across different systems and devices. By providing an integrated development and runtime environment, it handles all aspects of the “choreography”, from the specification of the global coordination logic and the discovery of available services, down to the translation of messages between the different devices and operating systems.

If all these sound too abstract, perhaps a concrete example will help you grasp the full power and potential of the technology. To showcase CHOReOS, we created DynaRoute, a dynamic personal organiser (think “Google Now”, but customisable and with infinite flexibility), and tested it in vivo by simulating a tourist visit. During the live showcase, DynaRoute handled site-seeing and tour guide services, taxi request, routing and pickup, traffic alerts, shopping tips, nearby friends notifications and meeting scheduling.

In the process, DynaRoute (taking advantage of the underlying CHOReOS framework), organised and handled several mobile phones, flight information, a fleet of 12 cooperating taxis, location, traffic, temperature, noise and air pollution sensors and dozens of different services (from proximity notifications to route scheduling based on traffic).

After three years of hard work, intense R&D, and extended cross-european collaboration, the CHOReOS project completed its final revue on November 6, 2013, in Brussels. We, at Virtual Trip, are excited to have helped create such an important piece of tomorrow’s infrastructure, and look forward to the future commercial applications of the project.

P.S. Oh, and did we mention that CHOReOS is also open source? In order to lower the barrier to access the technology and facilitate its’ adoption, we have released the IDE parts under the Eclipse Public License, and the runtime modules under the LGPL. You can grab the sources here.

Enhancing technical solutions by successful participation on research project CS-Orion

CS-Orion logoFollowing the very successful midterm review evaluation meeting with the European Commission committee on research project CS-Orion held recently at FORTH, Virtual Trip commits even further on the development of technical solutions  that refer to the second half of the project, yet balancing the project’s needs with continuous reviewing and updating of all necessary points already been reached.

Based on innovative Technical Approach, we are now focusing on the bundling of the CS-Orion algorithms and tools as a versatile and coherent software package which will prove appropriate for integration into end-user applications. Continue reading

Virtual Trip Ltd and The CHOReOS Solution

What is CHOReOS?

CHOReOS is a joint IT research and development project, whose sixteen members consist of companies, universities and research centers from six European countries and Brazil.

  • CHOReOS is a project of the FP7 European program: FP7-ICT-2009-5 – Objective 1.2; it is co-funded by the European Commission.
  • CHOReOS is a high-technology software project addressing one of the most acute challenges of the future Internet of Services: the design and management of ultra large-scale web services coordination.
  • CHOReOS is an open source project, the technology developed by the project will be publicly accessible from software repositories hosted on the OW2 Forge.
  • CHOReOS is a nascent community, a community that will come together and share via this web site, LinkedInTwitterStatusNet and IRC.

Continue reading