Fourth Framework Programme of European Community activities
in the field of Research and Technological Development


"Telematics Applications Programme"


Sector: Research


annual project review report 1997

Self Assessment


Project Number RE1007 Project Acronym MERCI

Project title Multimedia European Research Conferencing Integration

Project Manager

Name Roy Bennett

Department Computer Science

Organisation University College London

Address Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Country-Code City GB London

Telephone +44 (0)171 380 7934

Fax +44 (0)171 387 1397


List of Partners


Organisation Role Country


University College London C1 GB


GMD - Forschungszentrum Informationstechnik GmbH C DE


Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et Automatique C FR


Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan C SE


University of Oslo C NO


Rechenzentrum U Stuttgart C DE






Date: 19 September 1997


Project Self assessment - Form SA Project No: RE 1007

Project title: Multimedia European Research Conferencing Integration

Work-programme (15 December 1994) task: R 2.1 Real-time interactive multimedia collaboration

A. Assessment of work done during the reporting period.

We continue to make steady progress towards the goals we have set ourselves, though we have encountered some problems this year which have caused delays to our plans. This year, as last, we have benefited from the active co-operation of the project partners and of our associated User projects and sponsors. We have achieved most of the goals which we set ourselves within the 12 months since the last Annual report.

We have continued to play a major role in the development of international standards in the field of multimedia conferencing, both within the Internet community (IETF) and within the ITU (ITU-T). This participation is helping to ensure that the improvements and developments mentioned below are not limited to the MERCI participants, but will be reflected in the International standards.

We have further developed the functionality of the MERCI tool set. These developments have produced better quality coding, an improved shared-workspace tool, a more secure and usable media server, and secure session announcement and starting facilities. Other improvements continue to be developed, and will become during the remainder of the project.

We have made further progress toward the major project goal of enabling both confidentiality for conferences and authentication of participants with the delivery in February of an improved version of SCUA. Work has continued to improve the SCUA software and a new version with V3 certificates and facilities for the use of smartcards will be delivered in September. We continue to work closely with the IETF in the security area, and with the ICE-TEL project in its work towards a Public Key Infrastructure.

We have progressed the difficult task of integrating the circuit-switched conferencing model of the ITU with the packet-switched model of the Internet. We have a prototype H.323 Mbone Gateway which, when linked to the existing H.320 - H.323 gateway, will provide the full H.320 Mbone gateway. We expect to have an initial implementation of the full gateway before the end of the project. This task is particularly dependent on work under way in the IETF to standardise a conference control protocol for Mbone conferencing; this is needed to allow the mapping of H.320 controls to those for the Mbone and vice-versa.

We have also undertaken two additional tasks: the development of a transcoding gateway and MBone access via Direct Broadcast Satellite. The first allows single users access to Mbone conferences over N-ISDN or other low-bandwidth channels. This will greatly increase the scope for participation in such conferences by those not having Mbone connections and from mobile workstations. The second allows reception of multimedia at speeds up to 2 Mbps and response over Internet or other channels like ISDN.

We continue to collaborate with MANICORAL. We have kept in close touch with them during the difficult development of the TeleDraw/TeleCanvas software which they want to use as a basis for their own tool development. In February we received a useful report on the tools from them and have integrated these observations into our own work on user interactions. In addition, we have had feedback from users in our sponsoring partners; we are especially grateful to Hewlett-Packard for chairing the workgroup held as part of the project meeting in December 1996 which produced a series of observations and requirements.

The initiative at UiO to commercialise conference room technology developed under the auspices of the project, which we foresaw in our last report has resulted in the establishment of a new commercial company called New Learning to market, supply and support conference rooms incorporating MERCI technology.

Last October, we submitted a revised project plan to include the Communications Research Centre of Industry Canada as a partner, but have not yet received permission to so do. In spite of this we have continued our close collaboration with the Centre and this has proved fruitful to both them and us.

The delays we have encountered have reflected the difficulties in the tasks we have set ourselves and have not resulted in a failure to meet our objectives so much as a delay in so doing.



Project Manager Roy Bennett ........................................................ Date: 19 September 1997



Form SA page 2 Project No: RE 1007

B. Current project status

As at (end of reporting date)


Comments, problems with deadlines

Activities on/before target


In all these activities we have made good progress, not always in the way foreseen; details of the work are given in A2.

Activities delayed


There has been some delay in the work on shared workspace, both the interoperability foreseen between Mbone and H.320 tools in A5.4 of WP5 and in the development of a suitable reliable multicast environment for our work in A3.4 of WP3 (see A.3)

Deliverables submitted in reporting period


of which

3 PD

4 ID

3 X

D2 MERCI software deliverable 2 was produced on time in February and placed on the project web server. It was updated in June, after demonstrations at JENC, and is awaiting Peer Review before formal submission to the Commission

Deliverables acknowledged by DG XIII

2 of 3


Late deliverables - for reporting period

1 of 3

See note above.


C. Work done

Are project objectives being met?

Grade from 0 (not at all) to 4 (totally)




All remaining deliverables are on track for delivery by due dates.

Is work done within the project budget?





We have used some 20% more PMs for this year of the project than were budgetted. This additional effort has been concentrated in four workpackages:

WP 2 : we have spent more time than planned at standards meetings.

WP 3 : this is reflected in the additional tools we have produced for gateways and the shared whiteboard.

WP 6 : we have had many technical problems with our networks (we describe these in A.3)

WP 10 : this has been due to a large amount of extra effort by TELES

Major achievements within reporting period

  • Security Architecture delivered
  • Secure version of SDR produced
  • Produced a transcoding gateway to allow low bandwidth unicast access (e.g. via N-ISDN) to Mbone conferences
  • Pioneered medium speed access via Direct Broadcast Satellite
  • Internet drafts presented on RTP redundancy and SAP security


Details of expected end-products (ref.)




MERCI toolkit


This toolkit, verified and demonstrated by our users such as MANICORAL, will form the basis for the construction of interfaces targeted to meet specific user requirements. We are developing a PC version of the integrated user interface used by our sponsoring partner Shell Research.


D. Outline Changes to Future Plans

No changes are foreseen in the last 4 months of the project.





  1. Expectations for Implementation and/or Exploitation

These have not changed since the proposal. Under MERCI we have done some work in most phases: Analysis of user requirements (Phase 1), Definition of functional phases (Phase 2), Building of a demonstrator (Phase 3), Validation - including some verification - Phase 4a, but not really Demonstration in the way used by the EU (Phase 4b).

The purpose of the MERCI project is to help in the development of the tools so that they are available to other applications; a major activity is to assess the real needs of projects which have stated that they want to use the tools, to see what they really need.

We have had mixed fortunes in our promotion of the use of the MERCI tools in our main Demonstrators (other projects which capitalise on the facilities developed in MERCI). In most instances new users have found the tools to be a real benefit to them in their work, but our Commercial Trials in WP13 have ended without real deployment. The success of the Surgery demonstration in WP12 and the high quality seminars of WP11 continue to validate the improvements in the technology.

UiO has set up a new small company, New Learning, to commercialise conference room technology developed under the auspices of the MERCI project. Its objectives are to market, supply and support conference rooms incorporating MERCI technology.


TELES will market their gateway technology, developed as part of WP5, in the near term.



Form SA page 3 Project No: RE 1007

F. Commission Services observations

(to be completed by the Project Officer)
















































Commission Project Officer ....................... Signed ........................... Date...........................