Month: July 2016
Like Vincent Cottenceau (ESME Sudria Class of 1999), a Commander in the French National Army with a degree in Telecommunications, every year a number of ESME Sudria graduates turn their attention to engineering careers in the defense sector. For some students, this vocation begins well before the end of their studies. That was the case for Matthieu Clement (Class of 2017), a 4th year Information Technology student who recently participated in the 2016 edition of the “Grandes Écoles” Seminar of the Institute of Advanced Studies in National Defense (IHEDN). During the seminar, which was held from June 27 to July 1 at the École Militaire (Military School) in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, Matthieu attended numerous conferences, met professionals from the sector, rubbed shoulders with students from other prestigious schools (Sciences Po, HEC, Centrale, Arts & Métiers, Supaéro, etc.), worked on current issues, and especially, became more confident in his choice of careers.
Matthieu, the ESME Sudria student selected to attend the “Grandes Écoles” Seminar of the IHEDN
You are currently an Information Technology major at ESME Sudria. What made you choose this field?
I chose IT because it’s the most general major for reaching my goal, which is to work in either the public or private sector of the defense sector. I had a hard time deciding between IT and Networking – which is also an extremely good fit for defense – but finally went with IT.
It must be my patriotic side – I even wanted to do a year of military service, but that didn’t end up working out. At one point, I also wanted to work in forensic science. But after a month-long internship in the Digital Forensics Division at the Forensic Sciences Institute of the National Gendarmerie (IRCGN), I realized it wasn’t for me and became even more interested in defense.
Where did you get your patriotic side? From your family?
Yes, I come from a military family so must have picked it up from them. I also have an historian grandfather who is an expert on Napoleon. All of that certainly played a part in my feeling attached to France.
Which explains your presence at the seminar… How did your participation come about?
A friend of my mother’s knew I wanted to work in defense and spoke to me about it. She said it was a fascinating seminar, one I really shouldn’t miss. After talking to a few people who had attended the so-called “classic” seminar and inquiring about how to participate in the seminar reserved for students of the “Grandes Écoles,” I submitted my application and had the good fortune of being selected.
The seminar took place at the École Militaire (Military School) in Paris
What exactly did it involve?
The goal of the “Grandes Écoles” Seminar was to heighten awareness among students with regard to the various fields which may emerge as the “great employers of tomorrow.” This awareness included the national and political issues at stake in the French defense sector, as well as the operations which could take place elsewhere in the world with a focus, for example, on the abilities of large companies to influence their home countries. The seminar was fairly thorough and allowed me to acquire valuable insight into the world of defense, including the functioning of the Army, the diversity of its operations, etc.
Half of the seminar was dedicated to conferences hosted by generals and other top members of the military, researchers, and even a one-time member of the UN and some former ambassadors. There was also a variety of presentations conducted by organizations such as ANAJ-IHEDN, an association offering free membership for at least one year to everyone who participated in an IHEDN seminar, along with some interesting benefits.
We spent the rest of the time in committees, set up as diverse groups of fifteen students each. In my group, for example, there were military students from Saint-Cyr, students from Sciences Po, etc. Together, we had to work for three hours per day on the question of the extent to which our armed forces can be adapted to function on French territory. Each day, two different committees worked on the same subject, and at the end of the week we had to submit a report. The idea was not to repeat what we already knew, but to bring new ideas to the table. And since the report could only be four pages long, we were forced to edit our work to retain only that which was essential.
Which qualities were you able to bring to your committee?
I was somewhat more objective than most of the other committee members, who came from political and literary backgrounds. They were such experts in their fields that they sometimes had difficulty seeing other points of view. A good example was the case of “Operation Sentinelle”, which was set up after the terrorist attacks of January 2015. During the November attacks, there were in fact soldiers stationed near the Bataclan, but they stayed put. Although some of the committee members were right to point out that the soldiers didn’t move because of their duty not to act without orders, I thought it was important to emphasize that this incapacity to act could also be seen in a highly negative light.
In the end, did this seminar make you want to stay on your current career path?
Absolutely! All the conferences were extremely interesting and exciting. They were governed by the Chatham House Rule: speakers could say anything they wanted, and we could repeat anything they said as long as we didn’t make a connection between what was said and the person who said it. This rule allowed each of the speakers to maintain a certain liberty of expression.
What would you tell students hoping to take part in this seminar next year?
Not to hesitate. I can definitely say that participating in this seminar brought me into greater contact with the world of defense. Before the seminar, I often told myself I’d need a lot of time to understand the sector. But we learned so much over the course of a week that my ideas about defense immediately became much more concrete. For students interested in this domain, it’s a huge plus. For the others, the seminar is still extremely interesting, for it allows you to understand how France can manage its crises and conduct its operations, or it simply enables you to see the world in a different light – one ambassador tackled the Russia-Ukraine conflict from his own point of view, which sometimes went against every other opinion you can read on the subject. It’s always good to have different viewpoints from people in the field.
IHEDN’s mission is to heighten awareness among all citizens “by providing in-depth information on national defense in the broadest possible terms.” To complete this mission, each year IHEDN organizes two national sessions and several regional sessions which are open to prominent figures who are designated by order of the Prime Minister, as well as other thematic training courses.
Among the dozen or so end-of-studies projects in competition at the 2016 ESME Sudria Symposium, only three had the honor of being awarded top prize by this year’s jury. Over the summer, the school invites you to re(discover) these three outstanding winners. After EEG Headset and WADA, it’s time for Genblick (“instantaneous” in German), the last of our winners, to take the spotlight. Elies Yangui (ESME Sudria Class of 2016), who alongside Basma Allam and Ismenia Marson completed this project, talks to us about the origins and features of their instant messaging application.
How did you come to work on this project?
The school gave us a choice of several different subjects for our final project. Basma, Ismenia, and I quickly decided upon this one (instant messaging) because it required implementing a new technology, even though the technology had already been used by large companies such as Google, Skype, etc.
What exactly is this “new technology?”
It’s an XMPP communications protocol created by Jabber which transmits instant messages – in other words text, audio, and video. What makes this protocol special is that it was quickly picked up by buyers upon being released in 2002. The reason for the enthusiasm lied in the fact that the protocol uses a domain name and thus allows you to set up your own server. Essentially, each company uses the same technology – that of the XMPP protocol – all the while having an individual server at their disposal. Previously, this kind of messaging passed through centralized servers: every company therefore had to “dig” in the same “computer pool,” which caused problems with respect to competition, security, etc. With the emergence of this protocol, anyone can now implement messaging from their own private servers. That’s exactly what we did with Genblick. The messaging, of course, can be set up in a number of different ways, with varying scope and power according to the infrastructure you have to start with. That’s why this protocol was something everyone could agree on, despite the fact it was so new. Incidentally, Facebook wasn’t especially fond of Jabber for political reasons and tried to implement its own XMPP server using a similar protocol base. But as of today, the company still hasn’t succeeded in doing so. This example shows just how much the protocol is the current reference.
How did you create Genblick?
Basically, all it took was setting up an XMPP server. We ended up using an existing server and tweaking it so it would work with ESME Sudria’s Wi-Fi. The idea was to implement and administer the server correctly, as it was the “backbone” of our project. Overall, we were extremely pleased with the speed and efficiency with which we completed this phase of the project. We therefore decided to embark upon another challenge: code our own “client” after having used existing clients to test our XMPP server. Roughly speaking, this meant coding our own application so it would be operational as quickly as possible. This phase turned out to be an even greater challenge…but one we were also able to meet head on!
In the end, what did you learn from this project?
To start with, it allowed me to work in a team and apply my newly-acquired knowledge in a hands-on manner. Before the project, we had learned and applied a multitude of subjects: network administration, Java development, the implementation of new technology, etc. If you look online, you certainly won’t find a lot of people who, like us, succeeded in setting up a functional application and XMPP server, which incidentally were done in Java! Android apps are easy to find, but Java apps? That’s a novelty. To realize we succeeded in creating a small-scale version Skype with a limited amount of resources was extremely gratifying. In some way, it shows that you can be an innovator even without working for Google, Apple, Facebook, or Amazon (GAFA)!
What does it mean to you to receive a Symposium Award?
It’s a source of pride, as well as an honor for the Images, Signals, and Networks laboratory and our supervisor, Mr. Eric Munier, who always encourages us to think outside the GAFA box. By the way, at one point the jury asked us what Genblick had that Skype didn’t. We responded by saying it didn’t have anything new, except that Skype was the fruit of a major corporation, while Genblick was created by just three students from a French engineering school. Finally, this prize is also a reward for all the ESME Sudria apprentices who, in the history of the Symposium, have not always had the chance to be laureates. This recognition means the world to us.
Is there a future for your project?
I think so, yes. We’d like to promote the open source aspect even further by creating a site that grants access to our code. Currently there is very little documentation on the subject. Such a site would therefore allow us to address the issue of promoting the project, as well as explain how to set up and implement an XMPP server. And that could eventually inspire others, including ESME Sudria students, to pursue the project from their own end.
Among the dozen or so end-of-studies projects in competition at the 2016 ESME Sudria Symposium, only three had the honor of being awarded top prize by this year’s jury. Over the summer, the school invites you to re(discover) these three outstanding winners. After EEG Headset, it’s time to shine the spotlight on WADA (Weather and DAMIR Analysis), a project by Anthony Ginoux and Erwan Le Covec (ESME Sudria Class of 2016).
Can you tell us in a few words about the project your team presented during the Symposium?
Erwan Le Covec: WADA is an introductory project to Big Data and machine learning that deals with the analysis of two types of data: health insurance data on the one hand, and weather data on the other. The idea is to see if the weather really plays a role or not in the data gathered by the health care system. For example, we often imagine the number of colds and respiratory infections rising when it is cold and rainy. With WADA, we can know for sure.
Why did you choose this project?
Erwan Le Covec: We were excited by the possibility of working with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), the project’s corporate partner. We were confident that working with such a company was going to be a good experience. We were also interested in the technologies associated with the project: Big Data and data analysis are two fascinating subjects that we wanted to explore further.
How far did you get with the project?
Erwan Le Covec: We were able to perform all the analyses we wanted and came up with some pretty interesting results. The goal now is to continue to improve the communication between the machines within the infrastructure that was used.