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The ROBUST project

Dr Harith Alani is a Senior Lecturer in the Knowledge Media Institute at The Open University. The ROBUST (Risk and Opportunity management of huge-scale BUSiness communiTy cooperation) project was funded by the European Commission FP7 and the project partners are:

  • Universität Koblenz-Landau (DE)
  • SAP AG (DE)
  • IBM Israel – Science and Technology LTD (IL)
  • National University of Ireland, Galway (IE)
  • University of Southampton (UK)
  • Technische Universität Berlin (DE)
  • TEMIS S.A. (FR)
  • Software Mind SA (PL)
  • The Open University (UK)
  • MeaningMine Ltd. (IE)

The project recognised that online communities generate major economic value and form pivotal parts of corporate expertise management, marketing, product support, CRM, product innovation and advertising. Communities can exceed millions of users and infrastructures must support hundreds of millions of discussion threads that link together billions of posts. Current solutions fail to meet current challenges of scale and growth, let alone support for understanding and managing the business, social and economic objectives of the users, providers and hosts involved. Extensive research into novel solutions is required to deal with both the large-scale data management and analysis tasks as well as to understand and manage complex user behaviours and ecosystems in online business communities.

ROBUST created models and methods for describing, understanding and managing the users, groups, behaviours and needs of online communities. A highly scalable cloud and stream-based data management infrastructure will handle the real time analysis of large volumes of community data. Simulation and visualisation services will support detailed understanding, prediction and exploration of possible actions. A risk management framework will combine these tools within a methodology for the detection, tracking and management of both opportunities and threats to online community prosperity. Live industrial test beds from SAP and IBM provide practical grounding and serve to assess project success. Applications include online communities in internet, extranet and intranet settings addressing customer support, knowledge sharing, and hosting services. The variety of test beds will ensure generality of our approach as well as place stringent requirements on data volumes, scalability and real-time analysis.