NUI Galway Web Researcher Secures Funding From Google

Thursday, 16 December 2010

An NUI Galway Researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI), Dr Alexandre Passant, recently won a Research Award granted by Google to work on the next generation of mobile social networking applications. The grant will fund a team for a year, enabling them to combine theoretical research and implementation, which will make the product directly usable by end-users and advance the state of the art in the domain of social networking applications. A key element of the research will be the protection of privacy for users. In this recent round of funding, Google distributed 112 awards, for a total of more than six million dollars, and 29 percent of the funding was awarded to Universities outside the U.S.A including NUI Galway. Most social network applications are closed worlds, where you have to give your data to a provider such as Facebook in order to share this data with friends and the user cannot interact with friends on other social networks. Researchers at DERI have been working on SMOB, a microblogging framework as an alternative that enables semantic and distributed social networks. The result is that the user does not rely on a third-party provider, but owns their data and can share it with whomever they want. In the SMOB framework, distributed hubs communicate with each other to exchange the microblog posts and subscriptions in order to follow particular blogs or have others follow an individual blog, belonging to another user. Each user installs their own hub and the communication spreads from there. Dr Alexandre Passant, Unit Leader at DERI and Principal Investigator for the project, explains "With this Google Research Award, we will push the boundaries of this research to make such distributed networks as SMOB communicate directly between mobile phones, with a special focus on privacy. Our goal is to make users really control who they want to share content with, based on dynamic and in-the-cloud identification of people belonging to particular groups, for instance colleagues or family members, without having to subscribe to a service that will own your data. We will in particular rely on Google s PubSubHubbub protocol to do so, combined with our expertise in Social Networks and Semantic Web technologies." Professor Stefan Decker, Director of DERI says "The grant from Google shows the quality and relevance of Irish research, attracting more and more commercial interest. Our responsibility is to create the environment that makes it possible for the research to also transition into commercial reality, improving the lives of people, instead of staying solely in academia."
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