(Nanowerk News) Artificial intelligence has entered the public space. The term AI is everywhere, and millions of Europeans use this technology every day, often without even realizing it.
But who will oversee this new technology? And how do we know if the AI we are using is working as intended and can be trusted?
To ensure that the rise of AI does not contradict European values and the 450 million citizens of the European Union, the European Commission, more than half of Member States and 128 partners have allocated €220 million to set up four world-class test and experiment facilities , called TEFs, across Europe.
This TEF will act as a filter and shield between technology providers and society to ensure that the EU remains a breeding ground for AI excellence – from the lab to the marketplace – in a way that every citizen in Europe and beyond can trust.
27 June is the official launch date of the first four physical and virtual test facilities across Europe, abbreviated at the launch event as xTEF. The launch took place in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The launch was organized by CitCom.ai – TEF for Smart Cities and Communities, which is a collaboration between 33 partners in 11 countries, led by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), in close collaboration with the Danish Confederation of Industry (DI) and TEF DK, the industry organization non-profit TEF provider.
“We have the best European partners who have extraordinary knowledge and experience working with useful and responsible AI. Through years of collaboration, we have built the necessary knowledge and expertise to fit the rest of the global region and have created an ecosystem in which we learn from one another very quickly. It’s now even more operational,” said Martin Brynskov, chairman and coordinator of CitCom.ai, and Director of the Connecting Communities Center at DTU.
What is TEF?
TEF is a permanent facility in the European Union where complex digital technologies can be tested in real-world settings, physically and through simulation: from robots and artificial intelligence to network protocols and data processing and management.
The easiest way to understand what TEF does is to see it as a sort of security filter between emerging digital technologies – like AI, robotics, quantum, etc. – and citizens of Europe and beyond.
These filters – the initial four TEFs – test this technology in real-life settings and so-called “living labs” before they reach infrastructure, communities, enterprises and consumers. Filters aim to transform complex, pointed-edge technologies into something softer and more ready for society and people. Be a good product.
“AI-based solution providers get the opportunity to test their products in a real environment to assess whether they meet customer needs,” said Valentina Ivanova, project coordinator of AI-Matters, TEF in Manufacturing.
“By offering access to testing and experimentation infrastructure across Europe, we aim to accelerate the uptake of these solutions in the market.”
That’s to be expected from any other sector, but the technology is new, so TEF is setting up a new and permanent way to safely and quickly bring AI solutions to market. One can also view TEF as a digital version of the Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Program) crash test system, which tests current vehicle safety.
Four test facilities address different areas
The current TEFs each cover different areas: manufacturing, health, agriculture and food, and finally, cities and people.
TEF-Health leader and coordinator Professor Petra Ritter from Charité University Medicine Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health said: “TEF-Health will support SMEs and start-ups to bring Health AI and Robotics Innovation to market. With 51 partners on board – including notified certification bodies and metrology authorities – TEF-Health strives for new solutions that accelerate the process of turning innovations into trusted products that benefit patients.”
The idea is to be able to depress the throttle and brake pedal simultaneously. TEF ensures that the EU adopts the best technological solutions to produce good competitive products without compromising social goals.
“Right now, we are facing many challenges related to food security and climate change that no single organization can face alone. AgrifoodTEF wants to help bridge the gap between the extraordinary innovations emerging from European technologists and agronomists and solutions that deliver real results for farmers. Real-life experimentation and validation services are key to facilitating the adoption of AI and Robotics resulting in more efficient and sustainable food production,” said Raffaele Giaffreda, agrifoodTEF Coordinator of Fondazione Bruno Kessler.
As well as being a filter for providing testing and approval as a service, the TEF will also inform policy and provide real-world feedback.
Regulators will use in-facility testing and experimentation, and policymakers can see through the TEF and make more informed decisions about the safe and appropriate use of AI technology. This helps ensure that they create safe, inclusive, sustainable and prosperous conditions for EU citizens and optimal opportunities for European technology providers to compete responsibly in global markets.
All four test facilities will open for business in January 2024, with some services starting in July 2023.