Launch of NUS-Tsinghua Extreme Search Centre

23 Jul 2010

NUS Partners Tsinghua University to Set Up New Centre to Advance Frontiers of Search Technology. 

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, together with the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), are pleased to announce the launch of the NUS-Tsinghua Extreme Search Centre, or NExT Search Centre (where N stands for NUS, Ex stands for Extreme, and T stands for Tsinghua). Facilitated by the Interactive Digital Media R&D Programme Office (IDMPO), the NExT Search Centre aims to carry out leading-edge research into the technologies, framework and applications of live media search, as well as explore the commercialisation of technologies to companies in Singapore, China and abroad.

The NExT Search Centre is supported by a funding of S$10 million over five years by IDMPO, which is hosted by MDA, with combined contributions in kind from NUS and Tsinghua, bringing the total value of the support for the Centre to approximately S$20 million. The Centre also aims to raise an additional S$4 million in external grants to support its work. An agreement to set up the Centre was signed between NUS, Tsinghua University and MDA on 1 May 2010.

Headed by Professor Chua Tat Seng from the NUS School of Computing and Professor Sun Maosong from Tsinghua University’s Department of Computer Science, the NExT Search Centre will engage more than 150 graduate students and researchers. A total of 25 principal investigators from both NUS and Tsinghua University will be leading various projects at the Centre. Please refer to Annex 1 for a list of key personnel at the centre. The centre will be overseen by a Management Committee comprising senior personnel from MDA, NUS and Tsinghua University.

With rising connectivity and the growing affordability of mobile and sensory gadgets in a digitised world, existing solutions have proven inadequate in managing the ever-growing wealth and quantity of data, especially live media and real-time data. To address this need, the NExT Search Centre will conduct research on technologies for extreme search, which refers to the search for data that is not indexed and searchable by current Web technologies. Such data includes innumerable real-time data streams generated continuously from sensors, mobile devices, and data sources such as forums and blogs located around the world. In particular, the NExT Search Centre seeks to extract meanings from these data streams, and use the extracted information to help realise a smart living space for all users. Applications of the research are potentially extensive, from traffic tracking and monitoring, event tracking and re-construction, monitoring and summary of events and sentiments in blogs and major forum sites.

The NExT Search Centre will have two sites, one in the NUS Kent Ridge campus in Singapore, and another in Tsinghua University’s campus in Beijing. The dual locations will provide opportunities for research and commercial stakeholders in Singapore and China to benefit from the cutting-edge, next-generation search technologies developed by the Centre.

Welcoming the formation of the NExT Search Centre, Mr Michael Yap, Executive Director, IDM R&D Programme Office said, "We are honoured to have Tsinghua University establish its first ever overseas research office in Singapore. As infrastructure improves and costs decrease, the Internet has evolved from a pure text medium to a mixture of media rich and ‘live’ data. The combined expertise of NUS and THU under NExT provides a much needed boost to the pressing problem of real-time interactive media search. We hope that in time, the research resulting from the Centre will be adopted to give our industry a competitive edge in this sector.

"Singapore is building a unique brand of R&D which marries the uniqueness of Asian and developing world culture with the robustness of trans-disciplinary research and deployment. Through this collaboration, NExT joins an international network boasting renowned partners from Europe, US and Asia and is a critical addition to the network where collaborations with the best of East-West technology, talent and imagination will help us continually push the edge, and stimulate breakthroughs for technology’s next frontier."

Commenting on NUS’ involvement in the NExT Search Centre, NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Prof Tan Eng Chye said, "NUS is pleased to partner Tsinghua University in setting the standard for the next generation of search technology. With the combined expertise in Computer Science residing in both NUS and Tsinghua, we are confident of producing results that are of interest to the international research community and of relevance to industry and the wider society at home, in the region and beyond."

Prof Kang Kejun, Vice President of Tsinghua University, spoke of the decision to partner NUS in setting up NExT: "We are glad to witness the birth of NExT, the joint research centre on extreme search established at Tsinghua University and National University of Singapore. We believe the research centre will provide an open, active and productive environment for the researchers in Tsinghua and NUS to accelerate emerging breakthroughs in the next generation search technologies and transfer these technologies into practice."

The NExT Search Centre will carry out research in the following four areas:

a) Live Media Search: To research on the analysis, filtering and retrieval of information embedded within thousands of live sensors, along with mobile devices and other associated news, calendar and e-mailing information.

b) Live Forum Search: To study the mining and retrieval of multilingual and multimedia forum data, including opinion mining, question-answering and extraction of user behaviours and interests.

c) Distributed Infrastructure: To tackle the key research challenges in developing distributed and networking support for the sampling, updating and distribution of data from millions of live sensors over large geographical regions.

d) Extreme database support: To examine database support for live stream indexing, and spatial-temporal querying of millions of live streams.

The NeXT Search Centre will also build and maintain four systems, two of which will be open to public access to form the basis for large-scale deployment, testing and potential commercial spin-offs:

a) Extreme Sensor Test-bed: that includes thousands of sensors in Singapore and Beijing. This test-bed will be used for leading-edge research in live media search, as well as providing services to government organisations and companies. 

b) Extreme Database System: that provides database support for live stream indexing, and spatial-temporal querying of millions of live streams.

c) Extreme Search System: that analyses and fuses signals obtained from thousands of live sensors as well as user level information from mobile devices and other information sources. It supports searches for events arising from these live sensory data. The system will offer applications in the areas of traffic tracking and monitoring, or event tracking and re-construction.

d) Forum Mining and Search System: that tracks events, and provides summaries of events and sentiments in blogs and major forum sites, particularly those in Singapore and China.