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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 2, 2009
Interview
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Adding Value to Communications
December 2, 2009   
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Prof. Marek Amanowicz from the Telecommunications Institute of the Faculty of Electronics at the Military University of Technology (WAT) in Warsaw; a member of NATO's Information System Technology research group, talks to Marcin Mierzejewski.

You deal with electronics, radio communications and telecommunication systems. What is your main area of expertise?

My specializations have changed over time. I started with radio communications, then for many years I also modeled and designed telecommunication systems. The results of my work were used to cater to the needs of Poland's economy at the time. Then I moved on to electronic combat technology, a field of research that seeks to identify enemy radio-electronic systems and diminish their capabilities. I conducted many projects that found practical applications in reconnaissance systems in airplanes and helicopters, for example. At the same time, I studied issues related to electromagnetic compatibility and aerial design. Together with my colleagues from the Military University of Technology, I succeeded in devising and patenting several practical solutions for cell phone systems. The designs won a number of awards at international innovation and invention exhibitions.

My further interests involved the analysis and design of telecommunication systems. At present, I focus on developing methods and technologies that could be used in situations that require safe access to dynamically built and dispersed information resources. Such methods and technologies enable users, for example troops in a battlefield, to use authenticated information to increase the efficiency of operations.

Is this technology available for civilian use and what are the greatest challenges in this area?

As far as technologies and techniques are concerned, ideas and theories developed by scientists are not classified. What can be classified is only a certain level at which such ideas are applied. It would be hard to say what technology has been used where and what opportunities it presents to a given system. An intriguing trend in techniques and technologies is that while just yesterday telecom infrastructure was a means of information transfer, today it is becoming a medium to build community relations. To a large extent, the internet is about the activities of community groups. Community networking websites are popping up like mushrooms, which means that a technology that was originally used by Mr. X to get a message through to Mr. Y now finds a much more extensive use, enabling a given group to remotely pursue certain common goals.

Interestingly, this trend, which is only natural in human behavior, can be easily transferred to the contemporary military environment. What we usually see nowadays are not military operations conducted by a single country or a group of countries, but many organizations taking part in joint operations. This is best exemplified by Afghanistan, where the NATO operation involves many countries and organizations, both military and civilian. There are also humanitarian organizations, commercial organizations and the media in the area and it all can only function properly when the people who have joint tasks to perform are able to form something like an online community.

When somebody deals with reconnaissance and intelligence systems, then regardless of their location, it is vital that they have the technological capability to exchange information. When somebody takes care of supplies, it is important to avoid situations where a Polish soldier is forced to use Polish resources only and bring supplies from Poland when in the neighborhood there is a military unit from a different country with the right supplies.

The point is also to build a knowledge database and be able to exchange the knowledge safely. It is also important to make sure that different command centers interpret obtained data and assess the situation in the same way.

Moving on from ideas to actual projects, what have you been working on lately?

I am an architect in a major research project by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The project, being carried out by seven research centers, aims to come up with different methods and technologies to improve the efficiency of coalition military operations. Among other things, we are working on developing new, more efficient procedures in conducting operations. These days, there is more to operation efficiency than technology alone. It is also the knowledge of what to do to ensure greater efficiency and take full advantage of opportunities presented by technology. We build on methods and information techniques that are already there and devise new ones that improve the security of information command support systems and form what is known as common situation awareness on the battlefield. We also prepare scenarios to verify technological solutions we come up with.

Given the incredibly fast advances in this area, is it possible to predict the future directions of telecommunications development?

Yes, there are such forecasts. I believe that in the near future, one can expect significant progress in mobile radio communications, which will depart from single, dedicated solutions. For example, cell phones as we know them will be replaced by devices based on programmable radio technology. They will be like intelligent radio stations. A device like that will be able to recognize its environment at a given moment and choose the right communication mode, in terms of frequency, type of modulation and so on, to secure the best possible connection. At the same time, such devices should guarantee optimal use of the entire system's spectral and energy resources. While exchanging data between each other, such intelligent robots will autonomously organize and reorganize the network.

Another area of research involves essential changes to user interfaces. Some kinds of interfaces available today do not require the user to type anything. All it takes is a touch screen on which all kinds of information are accessed through dragging the picture. I believe we will soon start using entirely voice-controlled interfaces. One more area subject to extensive research are automatic translation systems.

What achievements can Polish science boast in your field of research?

Some solutions developed by Polish scientists have drawn the attention of the NATO transformation command. My colleagues will soon attend technology workshops in the United States where they will recommend a way of implementing NATO security services involving user authorization and authentication.

Myself, I represent Poland in a NATO Information System Technology group that conducts extensive research in different areas of information technology. Poland is a very active member of this group with Polish researchers taking part in 15 subject groups and chairing several subject areas. To a large extent, we owe it all to Polish universities of technology which produce new scientists with a superb education. As far as telecommunications is concerned, Poland can most definitely contribute an added value to world science.
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