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A northern ICT powerhouse

University of Oulu
The University of Oulu in Northern Finland is home to world-class, dynamic ICT research and has generated a number of successful business stories. ICT has long been one of the university’s strengths, and various dedicated initiatives and units have been set up in the field to serve research and society.

Research conducted under the banner of information technology and wireless communication at the University of Oulu centres on a variety of fields, including future telecommunication solutions, electronics and photonics, ubiquitous computing, machine vision and intelligent systems, welfare technology, and the application of micro- and nanotechnology to new electronic devices and systems.

When harnessed to applied research and development, this knowledge results in the creation of inventions and innovations that benefit society. In addition to strong global cooperation and a multi-disciplinary approach, the university is very much committed to being a local player in Oulu and to its local partners – companies, the authorities, and research and education organisations.

ICT research at the university is organised through a network of innovation centres and top-level research bodies.

Centre for wireless communications

The Centre for Wireless Communications (CWC, www.cwc.oulu.fi) operates as an independent research programme within the university’s Telecommunications Laboratory, and is funded mainly from private sources. Current long-term research work is addressing channel modelling, radio frequency technologies, signal processing algorithms and architectures for wireless networks, self-organising cognitive networking, future broadband transmission and radio access network techniques, wireless system planning, wireless internetworking, and wireless sensor networks.

CWC’s applied research covers solutions for wireless applications including radio system designs for security and defence operators, and revolutionary concepts for future applications in short-range communications. CWC’s research is widely deployed in products utilising 3G, 3G-LTE, and future 4G technologies. Systems have also been designed for tactical communications and positioning within the Finnish SDR programme and the early version of Wibree (currently ultra low-power Bluetooth) developed by CWC with Nokia.

Infotech Oulu

Infotech Oulu (www.infotech.oulu.fi) operates as an umbrella organisation for world-class information technology research. Infotech Oulu involves around 500 people and concentrates on three main areas: electronics, communications engineering, and computer science and information engineering. Research groups are selected on the basis of an external scientific evaluation.

The Infotech Oulu Graduate School has more than 230 graduate students, over 21% of whom come from abroad. Photo: Jussi Tuokkola / Studio Ukkoshuone.

The Circuits and Systems Group concentrates on micro- and nanoelectronics design, ranging from the design of electronic/optoelectronic circuits, circuit blocks, and systems to the development of design techniques and applications in the fields of electronic and optoelectronic measurement and radio telecommunications.

The main objective of the Intelligent Systems Group is to generate new knowledge on intelligent systems and apply this know-how in areas such as safety and security, data mining, humanenvironment interaction, and mobile robotics and cybernetics.

The Machine Vision Group has become renowned worldwide for its expertise in computer vision and methodologies, such as local binary patterns. The Group is currently concentrating on facial analysis, biometrics, and intelligent human-machine interaction, as well as energyefficient architectures for ubiquitous computing systems.

MediaTeam Oulu conducts leading-edge urban computing research with a visible and lasting impact on society. The Wireless Communication Systems Research Group, for its part, focuses on future wireless communications system concepts, networking technologies, and transceiver systems.

MediaTeam Oulu has been actively involved in developing panOULU, a public WLAN network that offers free wireless Internet access and other services for local users. Photo: Juha Sarkkinen.

Infotech Oulu’s three associate members for the 2010-2013 period will be involved in research on biomedical engineering, electronics materials and packaging, and human interaction, advanced mobile services, and intelligent environments.

Center for internet excellence

The Center for Internet Excellence (www.cie.fi) was launched in 2009, making it the latest addition to the university’s ICT research portfolio. CIE’s role is to connect organisations and people to co-create in the Internet context by promoting next-generation Internet technologies, applications, and services. Its aim is to capture and create Internet-driven growth opportunities and value by combining cutting-edge research innovations with agile new business creation processes.

CIE’s projects are multi-disciplinary, with the main focus on technology but closely linked to application development, usability, and the social sciences. The focus is on a Living Lab approach to obtain user-driven innovations by involving ordinary people in experimenting and contributing to the Internet of the future.

More than just ICT

The University of Oulu was founded in 1958 and has six faculties today (Economics and Business Administration, Education, Humanities, Medicine, Science, and Technology), some 3,000 staff, and 16,000 students. Researchers at the university are active in over 70 different elds of study, with a particular emphasis on information technology and wireless communication, biotechnology, molecular medicine, and the environment.

Current efforts in the field of biotechnology and molecular medicine are directed toward genetics and protein structures and the application of molecular, cell biology, and genetic engineering methods to the study of animals, plants, and human beings. Other significant research projects cover treatments for connective tissue and cardiovascular diseases. The focus of northern and environmental issues is on exploring how climate and environmental changes impact northern flora and fauna, with the aim of identifying new, sustainable ways of protecting and using the northern environment and its natural resources.

> Tapio Mäkinen & Heikki Huomo
(Published in HighTech Finland 2010)