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Greece’s OTE selects Ericsson for IPTV project March 13, 2008

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Ericsson has been selected to act as end-to-end IPTV systems integrator, solution provider and business consultant for tier one Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE SA).

The integrated IPTV solution for OTE comprises of headend systems from Tandberg Television, part of the Ericsson group, middleware application, content distribution platform and a customized and flexible consumer portal. The solution will also involve complete implementation and integration of tools for operational management.

Ericsson was chosen for its proven ability to deliver a complete IPTV solution that meets the market demands. The IPTV solution will enable OTE to offer new and sophisticated services to its consumers. The initial offer will include a wide variety of broadcast channels, video on demand, electronic program guide, and personal video recorder capabilities.

Ericsson offers an end-to-end IPTV solution consisting of IPTV middleware, video on demand, network-based PVR, IPTV headends, content protection, IPTV infrastructure, systems integration and IPTV applications such as games. Ericsson has to date signed more than 180 IPTV contracts. Those include commercial contracts, trials, IPTV System Integration projects, IPTV headend contracts and IPTV infrastructure contracts for access, metro transport and IP Edge.

Ericsson is the world’s leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. The market leader in 2G and 3G mobile technologies, Ericsson supplies communications services and manages networks that serve more than 185 million subscribers. The company’s portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, and broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and developers. The Sony Ericsson joint venture provides consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices. 


Greek Parliament awards software contract February 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Technology.
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Greece’s Parliament awarded Globo PLC a one year contract, valued at 622,000 euros, to provide specialised software, services and equipment to digitalise and document newspapers, maps, books and other documents for the Parliament’s Library.

Globo said the contract is part of a 1.7 million euros project with the Greek Parliament and said it will provide the services along with its partners, Greece’s Info-Quest SA and AMS.

Solar power sector looks set to shine February 25, 2008

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Solar power sector looks set to shine despite financing difficulties from credit crunch > Demand from institutional investors for large-scale renewable portfolios remains strong, now reaching into new markets, such as Greece. 

Solar power will be a bright investment prospect, as the appetite for green energy grows, even though the global credit crisis is making banks more wary of providing financing. In the short term, the sector will also have to contend with a shortage of silicon, a key ingredient for solar cells that turn sunlight into electricity, and possible changes in political support as elections take place.

“This year will be a very volatile one,” said Sven Hansen, chief investment officer at clean technology investor Good Energies, which has about 7 billion Swiss francs ($6.38 billion) under management. “The industry will see fantastic growth, but it will be a bumpy ride in terms of how financial markets value photovoltaic companies.”

The number of new large-scale solar energy plants has been growing rapidly particularly in sun-drenched countries like Spain and Italy, but also in Germany and the United States, where regulatory conditions offer incentives and stable returns for investors. Conditions could change because of a presidential election in the United States and general elections in Spain in March. “Whether there are support programs in place has a strong impact on markets’ development,” Hansen said.

Growth is still expected to be strong, driven by increased interest from institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurers, which are seeking alternative stable and long-term opportunities. Experts also expect the silicon shortage to ease next year as silicon makers hike up capacity and production.

“Leverage ratios are more difficult, but we will ride out the storm. The business is not shut,” said Peter van Egmond Rossbach, director of investment at Impax Asset Management. The firm provides finance for renewable energy projects around the world and has $2 billion under management. Thirty percent is invested in solar, 40 percent in wind and the rest in other renewable energy projects, it said. “It just means that (project financing) is getting more expensive and we have to bridge with equity,” he added.

Tighter liquidity on global financial markets resulting from a crisis in the US subprime mortgage market last year has made banks more risk-averse. As a result, conditions have become tougher, pushing up interest payments for loans and other financing costs, which reduces the cashflow and leads to higher purchase prices for investors.

“We notice it in the purchase prices,” said Barbara Flesche, head of equity sales at Epuron, a project developer, which is fully owned by German solar group Conergy. Epuron develops, finances, develops and operates large-scale renewable energy projects, bringing together investors, banks and equipment producers. It has completed deals worth about 800 million euro ($1.18 billion) since 1998, it said.

Banks were less willing to provide high gearing for such major projects, which dampened investor hopes of a higher return on equity, Flesche said. But she added, “The risk for purchase prices is not something that’s hurting us dramatically – so far.”

Flesche said demand from institutional investors for such large-scale renewable portfolios was still strong and was now also reaching into new markets, such as Greece or Italy. “It will become more difficult to get bank financing, but not impossible,” Epuron’s Flesche said.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) expects the global market to be five times bigger than it was in 2007 within the next five years. It said it expected annual installations to reach a 10.9-gigawatt peak by 2012 globally, up from a peak of about 2.2 gigawatts in 2007, adding that annual growth rates of well above 25 percent could be expected.

The European Energy Council has forecast that by 2010 about 1.6 percent of total energy generation will derive from photovoltaic sources, which compares to a share of 0.01 percent in 2003. By 2010 the council expects about 19 percent of generation will derive from renewables, 15 percent from nuclear and 66 percent from fossil sources.

Greek scientists blaze way in solving Internet questions November 1, 2007

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Experts at i-sieve are developing content-filtering technology > Researchers Giorgos Paliouras, Vangelis Karkaletsis, Thomas Biziliotis, Timos Kouloumbis, Constantinos Spyropoulos and Costas Handrinos.

In a tiny office with just a couple of computers and a coffee machine, the firm known as i-sieve, set up in 2004 by a group of researchers at the National Center for Scientific Research (NCSR) called “Democritos,” the fate of a Hollywood director has been decided, a Mexican advertising campaign for a deodorant has been changed and the discovery made that Adidas wasted 200 million dollars at the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany.

The firm, i-sieve technologies, is a Democritos spin-off company whose researchers have developed content-filtering technology to tune into the opinions of millions of people from all corners of the earth who use the Internet for everything from products and services to candidates for the leadership of political party.

The job assigned to i-sieve is to use artificial intelligence to analyze the content of websites. These online media analysis methods are based on an innovative system of thematically organizing Internet content developed at the Software and Knowledge Engineering Laboratory at Democritos.

“In effect, this is an algorithm which we train to search the Web for what interests us and to classify it,” explained Costas Handrinos, the Director of i-sieve. A typical project is their input to MedIEQ, which reviews and controls the accredited or filtered medical websites.

“About 80 percent of Internet users around the world visit medical sites and 40 percent of these people say the information they obtain affects their final decisions regarding their treatment,” said Evangelos Karkaletsis, one of the co-founders of i-sieve. “As a result, the information they get from the Internet is important; someone has to guarantee the reliability of these pages. The data that is valid now could, in the next few seconds, change as the content of the site changes. This is where we come in. We have developed specialized engines to search for the medical content of websites on the basis of specifications set by doctors. The objective is cooperation between search engines so that the results are linked to the credibility of a site.”

The company’s biggest customers are foreign advertising firms, mostly members of the multinational Interpublic Group, that interpret prevailing trends among Internet users for corporate clients and advertising campaigns.

“The system can provide a real-time view of various aspects of the Internet, special interest sites, blogs, forums, chat rooms and so on, and pinpoint references of interest to each search and to classify them automatically, for example, positive, negative, neutral,” explained Giorgos Paliouras, a Democritos researcher and co-founder of i-sieve.

It is something like a passive opinion poll, as on these sites users express their views spontaneously and these are monitored by the algorithm.

One job was for a major Hollywood studio. “We investigated trends regarding a top director’s latest film. We found that users blamed him because the film had flopped. There was a very negative buzz about him on the Internet. The data we collected persuaded the studio to stop working with the director.”

Before the World Cup in Germany in 2006, Adidas had spent 200 million dollars for exclusive television advertising, no other firm would be linked to this major sporting event. At that time the ratio of Internet searches on Adidas and Nike was 3:10. When the tournament was over, it was up to 7:10. “Was it worth 200 million dollars? Considering that Nike swept the Internet with just one videoclip of Ronaldinho, without paying even a cent, probably not,” said Thomas Biziliotis, an Internet advertising analyst.

Public servants admit IT illiteracy October 31, 2007

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Tax offices in Greece are still full of paper. Computers are there for public servants to use but the majority of employees are not skilled enough, a recent survey has found.

Computers are plentiful in the public sector, but there is a shortage of employees with the skills to use them, according to a study by the Observatory for Information Society.

The survey focused on the use of informatics and communication technologies and found that public servants have access to computers but do not use them, particularly in the case of those in executive posts. And while they acknowledge the importance of these technologies in public administration, they themselves report that the public sector does little to encourage staff to use them, while there are many problems in acquiring the necessary operating skills.

Presented at the ICT Forum in Athens, the study showed that virtually all executives in central public administration (92 percent) have access to computers, but that they are underused and civil servants are not happy with their e-skills. They say their training is of poor quality while their satisfaction with the seminars organized by the state is “low.”

At the same time, although most public sector information technology professionals have been trained, their skills have not been updated to a satisfactory degree.

To tackle the problems arising in the most rapid and effective way, the IT professionals suggest that an improvement is required in the knowledge level of computer users, along with equipment upgrading and greater flexibility in procuring hardware and software. Most IT experts say they play a very small part in decision making with regard to informatics issues in their enterprise.

At an executive level, the vast majority own a computer and have a personal e-mail account, but they rarely use them as their own skills lag behind those of their staff. This is attributed to the age factor (71 percent are over 55) as well as a lack of adequate training in, familiarization with and experience of new technologies.

Lastly, the survey reveals that young employees find public administration to be overly bureaucratic and seem more open to changes, compared with executives who have a more positive view of the “citizen-centered” nature of public services.

Recycling of Greece’s electronic waste gets off to a tentative start October 24, 2007

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Only a small percentage of old computer hardware is processed > “Where does my personal computer go when it dies?” wondered Yiannis Dimitriadis, a graduate of the National Technical University.

He may well ask. A Presidential decree in 2004 ruled that we should be recycling 44,000 tons annually, that is 4 tons per capita, at controlled recycling centers, in line with European Union legislation. At the end of the 1980s, along with 169 other countries, Greece signed the Berne Convention against the illegal distribution of waste. The member states that have ratified the convention (63, including Greece), do not export e-waste to developing countries.

The average life span of the average PC declined from six years in 1997 to just two years in 2005. By 2010, the amount of e-waste in the European Union is expected to reach 12 million tons annually. Ioanna Dantidi, public relations officer for Appliances Recycling SA, www.electrocycle.gr, explained the procedure and the part her company plays in it. “The firm is the first national collection agency for the alternative management of electrical and electronic appliances. It functions as a kind of state concession. “We are licensed by the Environment and Public Works Ministry, to which we are answerable,” she said.

E-waste collection depends to a great extent on the Municipalities and the agreement they reach with the authority concerned. Nevertheless, this is no easy matter. “The first problem is finding a storage place and the second is finding a way to collect the waste from the Municipalities.”

The Municipalities who do collect this waste undertake to transport it to appropriate sites and from there to the Greek Recycling Center (EKAN), the only recycling center for PCs at the moment, although another eight are expected to start operations in 2008. Appliances Recycling has arrangements with 136 Municipalities, which are paid 140 to 180 euros per ton for their cooperation.

“This gives them an incentive, because even though they are obliged by law, there are many ways to shirk that obligation and they often make great efforts to do so,” said Dantidi.

Gypsies have always collected scrap metal, but now much of this waste consists of electrical appliances, including computers. According to mechanical and civil engineer Giorgos Vakontios, Vice President of EKAN, the Gypsies remove the glass, plastic and copper to sell separately to the recycling centers. However, they then throw away what is left in garbage dumps. Computers are pollutants in themselves. Even if EKAN collects PCs from waste lots, it is too late.

EKAN processes up to 20,000 tons of e-waste every year. As Greece produces a total of 170,000 tons, the rest ends up in garbage dumps. But EKAN is a dismantling plant, not a recycling plant. PCs are broken up and dangerous materials separated from the useful materials, which are taken to recycling plants elsewhere in Europe. However, some materials do end up in the Third World, in China and Pakistan.

According to Vakontios, these countries receive different types of plastics, motors, transformers and hard disks which are sent abroad for further recycling. So Greece does send material to China once dangerous materials have been removed. The question is who decided what is dangerous.

Apart from the Municipalities, retailers also bear a responsibility for collecting e-waste. Although required by law to do so, it is very rare with only a few exceptions. According to Appliances Recycling, some retailers do make an effort. The DIY chain Praktiker has installed collection points for small appliances. Since the end of 2005, Cosmote has installed bins for collecting old cellphones, bluetooth appliances and batteries.

International organizations are struggling to persuade manufacturers to assume their responsibilities. Greenpeace, the Basel Action Network (BAN), the main agency for monitoring e-waste based in Seattle, USA, and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an NGO defending public health from the side effects of high technology, are waging a daily battle to prevent the illegal movement of e-waste but also to change the way major manufacturers manage their waste.

They are also fighting for limits on the use of dangerous substances in the manufacture of computers and other appliances. Nokia tops the Greenpeace e-waste scorecard. It is withdrawing dangerous chemicals from many of its products. Sony Ericsson is close behind. Near the bottom of the list are Apple, Hewlett Packard and Panasonic.

EU legislation has already been amended so that producers will now be responsible for recycling their waste. The cost of abiding by the legislation, which is likely to raise product prices, is estimated to amount to 500-900 million euros.

First energy-sufficient building in Athens October 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Energy, Technology.
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A team of local experts have built a five-story building in Athens with its own autonomous energy supply, the first of its kind in Europe.

Experts from the National Center of Scientific Research (NCSR), the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Research and Technology and energy company Sol Energy Hellas have pooled their resources to create a 600-square-meter building that draws more than 95 percent of its energy needs from its solar and geothermal energy installations. Geothermal power is generated by heat stored beneath the earth’s surface.

athens_eco_building.jpg  The mythical figure of Prometheus, giver of fire, adorns the building. Located in the southern Athens suburb of Palaio Faliron, the inauguration of the energy project, which houses Sol Energy Hellas’s offices, will take place tomorrow after four years in the making.

One of the largest obstacles experts came up against in executing the project was proving to government officials that the building did not need access to all state energy companies. However, the Environment Ministry forced the installation of a natural gas system, as this is required by law.

High-performance solar panels that heat water but are also able to cool down the building and shallow geothermal equipment used to control room temperatures are among the features of the project. Experts estimate that less than 10 years will be needed to recover the money invested in the power equipment. In Greece, solar power systems are used almost exclusively to power hot water systems in homes.

”We have 3 million square meters in Greece of installed solar panels, saving 2,000 megawatts of energy which amount to two power plants the size of those in Megalopolis,” said Vasillis Belesiotis of the NCSR.

Related Links > http://www.solenergy.gr