ONTARIO TELEPRESENCE PROJECT ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE
Spawned from an Information Technology Association meeting in early 1990 between Bill Buxton and then Executive Director of ITRC, Dr. Michael Jenkins, the Project was conceived as a unique opportunity to work on human-centered issues associated with the rapid convergence of computing and telecommunications technologies. Early on, Peter Leach, President of TRIO was approached to partner in the initiative to provide the telecommunications expertise necessary to realize the applications envisaged. Peter Leach brought in Dr. Morris Goldberg, a senior TRIO researcher from the University of Ottawa as a Co-Principal Investigator. Together, the two researchers developed the details of the proposed project. Concurrently, Ontario's Premier, Mr. David Peterson, was preparing to host the heads of four regions in Europe in a conference called "Interregion `90". This conference was called to explore cooperation between Ontario and these four regions (known as the "Four Motors" of Europe) in the areas of culture, trade and science. With the support of Dr. Martin Walmsley of Technology Ontario, the project was proposed to the Ontario cabinet as a opportunity for international collaboration between Ontario and the Four Motors of Europe. After proposing this project to the four European leaders, a series of multi-level meetings between researchers, government officials and the heads of the regions resulted in an accord launching five local Telepresence projects under the umbrella of the International Telepresence Project. It is in this context that the Ontario Telepresence Project operates today.
The Ontario Telepresence Project is a collaboration between government, academia and industry together with equivalent organizations in Europe. Major funding is provided by the Province of Ontario through two Provincial Centres of Excellence, the Information Technology Research Centre (ITRC) and the Telecommunications Research Institute of Ontario (TRIO). As Figure 6 below shows, it is through ITRC and TRIO that the project interacts with it's key stakeholders.
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Figure 6: Key Stakeholders
PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND EXECUTIVE
As the prime signatory on the main contract with the Province, overall responsibility for the strategic direction and execution of the Ontario Telepresence Project lies with John Chattoe, President of the Information Technology Research Centre. He, in close consultation with Peter Leach, President of the Telecommunications Research Institute of Ontario, makes policy decisions regarding the overall objectives and goals of the Project.
Detailed management and coordination of the Project is the responsibility of Ron Riesenbach. Seconded from ITRC in February of 1992, Mr. Riesenbach is effectively committed full-time in directing all aspects of the Project's activities and priorities including financial, human resource, partner relations (industrial, government and European), administration and communications issues. He is assisted by Tabatha Holtz who works on administrative and outreach activities associated with the Project. Both occupy offices at the Computer Systems Research Institute at the University of Toronto which provides infrastructure for the local research activities of the project.
Scientific direction and research management is the responsibility of the Project's Principal Investigator, Bill Buxton . Bill Buxton, Associate Professor of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, is half-time with the Project and half-time with Alias Research, Inc.
John Chattoe, Peter Leach, Ron Riesenbach, Bill Buxton constitute the Project's Executive Committee which meets regularly to address various issues and to set strategies. This committee is often augmented with Gerald Karam and Gale Moore who are the Director of Engineering and Chief Social Scientist, respectively.
The Project is structured through a series of linked contracts as depicted in Figure 7 below. While the project was, from it's inception, a collaborative ITRC/TRIO initiative, ITRC assumes overall responsibility for the coordination of the main contract with the Province. This contract outlines the central goals and objectives of the project and outlines the Project's milestones.
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Figure 7: Contractual Structure
ITRC and TRIO negotiated a linked contract whereby about half the research outlined in the main contract would be done through TRIO researchers. Both ITRC and TRIO have hired staff and have sub-contracted with three universities to do the actual research work. Industrial Partners participate in the project through agreements coordinated by ITRC.
TRIO has hired limited-term full-time professional staff to carry out a portion of the research sub-contracted. These staff, the Ottawa Engineering Group (OEG), each have separate employment contracts through TRIO. Professional staff at the University of Toronto have their individual contracts covered under the blanket contract between ITRC and the university.
Technology Ontario is the Provincial Government arm responsible for the Telepresence Project. As part of it's agenda to promote cooperative ventures between post-secondary educational institutions and industry and to establish linkage with key European regions, it has committed $2.85 million to the project over three years.
Technology Ontario monitors the progress of the project through various means including an independent advisory committee (the Scientific Advisory Board) that conducts periodic visits to the project sites.
A large proportion of the research is conducted on university campuses by university faculty and dedicated professional staff hired specifically to work on the Project. Most full and part-time staff report directly to the Project's two Principal Co-Investigators and reside at two main locations: the University of Toronto and a suite of commercial offices in Ottawa[*] (the Ottawa Engineering Group, OEG).
The Managing Director of the project the Scientific Directors have their offices located on the campus of the University of Toronto.
Two committees coordinate the activities of the International Telepresence Project; the International Steering Committee (ISC) and the Research and Technical Committee (RTC). The first consists of the regional research managers and regional government representatives who meet twice yearly to review progress and discuss other non-technical issues. The second consists of senior researchers from each region who communicate regularly to coordinate research efforts between the regions.
Ron Riesenbach, John Chattoe and Peter Leach share a position on the Steering Committee along with Dr. Martin Walmsley, Director of Technology Ontario, who leads the delegation. Morris Goldberg and Bill Buxton are the Project's representatives on the International Telepresence Project Scientific and Technical Committee.
Application Labs (Karlsruhe) leads Baden-Württemberg's reseach program. While the research program was not yet underway in 1992, it's intent is to work on "Teleworking" applications investigating generic user and organisation needs. The research program proposed by Applications lab is strongly market oriented. The application developed will be tested in several field trials in the areas of "Publishing and Printing" as well as in "Organisation Management". Baden-Württemberg will also investigate and define market and usage relevant definitions of generic applications and user needs common to the project.
The Telepresence program in Catalunya is centred at UDIAT. It is a project in medical image processing and transmissions in a shared work environment. The main goal is the intercommunications between the medical senior office teams in the same hospital centre or at different remote centres to facilitate the exchange of opinions and knowledge. The intercommunication will be supported on multimedia information (images, voices, graphics, documents and text).
The project, which has to include the complete installation of all the necessary elements in order to carry out the multimedia consultation. It will have to foresee the different technical configurations which can give possibilities for the implementation of the project among centres with different needs, as technical as economical and human resources possibilities.
Lombardy will perform experiments, based on Telepresence technology, to demonstrate the possibility of improving diagnostic and medical activities in a hospital environment. The focus of the investigation will be on the communication process occurring between health care professionals and having as subject a set of patient's medical images. The Intensive Care Unit, the Radiology Department and the Surgery Center of the Cardiology Department of a major regional hospital, employ medical images often and extensively.
Thus these centres constitute the most appropriate sites for the experiments. Tele-consultation between radiologists working within the same hospital or different hospitals will also be addressed.
Rhône-Alpes will conduct research and trials to introduce Telepresence technology and related social environment to support development of courseware and corporate and community learning. Results will support elaboration of the multimedia teaching materials required to support Telepresence supported open learning. This will also lead to advances in the effective, productive and extensive use in the development of multimedia courseware and the delivery of knowledge "just-in-time" at any levels within the regional community.
The Ontario Telepresence Project partners with a small number of companies to share knowledge and technologies gained through the course of the research. There is be a commitment by the Project and the companies to support each other's interests in the research. Firms joining the Project are be called "Industrial Partners" according to the definition in the "International Strategic Framework" document.
Final authority in all matters pertaining to partnership in the Ontario Telepresence Project reside with the President of the Information Technology Research Centre. He/she will, in consultation in the President of the Telecommunications Research Institute and the Managing Director of the project, have contractual responsibility and overall control of the OTP.
Industrial Partners are Active Participants
A precondition to industrial participation in OTP is that all Industry Partners commit people to the Project in addition to cash and other in-kind support. Our experience has shown that it is difficult and rare for precompetitive research projects to transfer know-how to sponsoring companies through technical reports or occasional meetings. Technology transfer between academic researchers and industry professionals happens best through an ongoing process of bi-directional interchange and learning. It is through the active participation of individuals from partner firms that company-specific benefits can be identified and extracted from the on-going work. Benefits of partnership are shown in the table below.
Some Industry Partners have chosen to have their researchers reside on campus with the university researchers; offices have been arranged in these cases. Others have chosen to equip company resident researchers with advanced telecommunications systems to enable collaboration to take place using Telepresence systems under development.
Industrial Partners recognize that open sharing of Intellectual Property among research groups is fundamental to the success of both the Ontario and the International Telepresence projects. They further recognize that due to the precompetitive nature of the project, the OTP or it's European partners will currently have or will be able to accept new firms as Industrial Partners that may be competitors of existing Industrial Partners. Thus, Industrial Partners agree that it is incumbent on them to empower their collaborator such that he/she can interact freely with these other participants sharing insights and know-how.
Eligibility and Cost
Eligible organizations include private or public research organizations and firms incorporated in Canada which have significant related R&D activities in Ontario. These organizations must be willing and able to contribute personnel (scientific, marketing or other as appropriate) to the project as well as other resources (facilities, equipment, cash).
These organizations are committed to observing the terms of this agreement and the International Strategic Framework which defines the international project.
The general guideline for determining the contribution level necessary to become an Industrial partner is as follows:
In exceptional cases, special contribution levels can be negotiated with the
Managing Director. Several companies collaborate with the Project in lesser
ways and, although they are not eligible for all the benefits of Partnership,
derive certain benefits from their collaboration.