General Information

Name of Research Unit:



Eugénio da Costa Oliveira

Main Scientific Domain:

Engenharia Electrotécnica e Informática

Other Subdomains:



Host Institutions

Leading Host Institution:

Universidade do Porto

Other Institutions Involved:


Objectives & Achievements

Unit Description

The Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science (LIACC) at the University of Porto started in 1988 with 5 researchers holding a PhD. In 2008 this number has increased to 23 and there were four research groups (Advanced Programming Systems, Distributed Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Formal Models of Computation, Complexity and Cryptography) mainly residing in the Faculty of Sciences and the Faculty of Engineering.

The management of LIACC is done according to the FCT Multi-year Funding Program rules, through a Coordinating Board, a Scientific Council and an external Advisory Board.

The Coordinating Board is composed by senior researchers, one of which is the LIACC Coordinator, and the other researchers are usually elected among the heads of the research groups. The Scientific Council, responsible for the approval of annual reports and plans, is composed by all the researchers holding a PhD. LIACC activities are periodically reviewed by an external Advisory Board whose members are invited among internationally recognized outstanding experts.

Until December 2009 the following researchers will be in charge:

-‎ ‏LIACC Coordinator: Eugénio Oliveira

-‎ ‏LIACC Coordinating Board: Eugénio Oliveira, Miguel Filgueiras, Luís Damas, Armando Matos, Ana Paula Tomás, Luís Paulo Reis

-‎ ‏Advisory Board: Claude Kirchner (INRIA, France), Carles Sierra (IIA, CSIC, Barcelona).

LIACC team actualization on 31 December 2008, gave the following numbers: a total of 50 members, 23 of which holding a PhD, 15 holding a master degree and the remaining 12 have just finished their graduation. However, none of the PhDs is doing research full-time, as it is the case with most of the other researchers.

In order to make the research unit more coherent, LIACC proposed to FCT, in May 2009, a new structure with only two research groups, one of which resulting from joining three of the previous ones. This proposal is still under evaluation.

General Objectives

LIACC aims at helping to solve the following general problems:

- Software reliability

Reliable software is still the main challenge in computer science; software engineering approaches failed in general; formal approaches based on logic specifications and theorem proving have trouble handling real programs with a loose specification; unit tests improve the reliability of parts of the program but fail to guarantee reliability of the whole; design by contract approaches (e.g. ruby, spec-#) combined with type inference can improve reliability but do not guarantee correctness; may be a combination of different approaches should be used.

- Distributed, Dynamic and Decentralized (DDD) problems

We aim at addressing classes of problems that are inherently of a Distributed, Dynamic and Decentralized nature as those which occur when different and heterogeneous entities/partners need to inter-operate over a computer network. To deal with this kind of organizational problems, Electronic Institutions assume a relevant role by providing services like negotiation mediation, ontology mapping, contract drafting, monitoring and enforcement, as well as evaluation of trust and reputation indicators for consortia and Virtual Organizations\Enterprises life-cycle automatic assistance. Also, the Traffic management domain, both in terrestrial and aerial environments can be seen as DDD problems. Both at individual level and group level activities, these problems are better addressed through Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (MAS) paradigm.

However improvements are required both on the theoretical and practical aspects, in order to achieve better interoperability, decision making, agents and team coordination. Approaches to this include the use of Negotiation and Adaptation capabilities, defining Normative environments, advanced cognitive and Emotion-like architectures for agents and agent-based simulation platforms. Selected application domains for Multi-agent Systems are Electronic Institutions for B2B, agents’ team coordination strategies, Intelligent Text Mining, air lines operations’ disruption management and ontology developments

- Security

Security of software and of communication is currently a major concern. Public key cryptography techniques are based on the computational intractability of the associated code breaking problem. However this is normally judged on worst case complexity and better measures of security are needed. One possible approach is the use of time bounded versions of Kolmogorov complexity. Another problem arises from the need to execute foreign code that may open the door to attacks. One solution is to force foreign code to include a proof that it will not break security. This however requires support for the development of proofs of program properties.

- Information processing reliability

Representation of information is a major problem of computer science. Coherence and reliability of information is still almost completely left to programmers; e.g. information migration between representations is done without enforcing any kind of reversibility and can lead to loss of information; standards like XML ignore this kind of problem. There is a strong need for models (e.g. like reversible languages) and tools to achieve reliability in information processing.

Main Achievements during the year of 2008

- Electronic Institution: A platform facilitating Virtual Organizations life cycle; implementation of the platform, integrating negotiation, ontology services, norms for contracts formation and enforcement, and Computational Trust and Reputation

- MAS applied to the Traffic management domain, both in terrestrial and aerial environments. Concerning Air Traffic Disruption Management we started cooperating with NASA AMES Research Center and with an AI-based company (SISCOG). We also stated the grounds for an agent oriented software engineering method

- DIVERT traffic simulator at the microscopic level supporting a large number of vehicles and vehicle to vehicle communication

- definition of a feasible efficient reduction strategy for linear based languages

- a realistic cost-aware operational semantics for lazy functional programming languages

- encoding of regular expressions, regular languages, Kleene algebra, Kleene algebra with tests and the deductive rules of propositional Hoare logic as Kleene algebra with tests theorems

- comparative study of Hoare based approach to the safety of programs

- a canonical form for acyclic deterministic finite automata and an exact enumeration algorithm for them

- creation of a a database for random samples of deterministic and non-deterministic finite automata, and of regular expressions

- the decision problem associated with the problem of finding the maximum area of a monochromatic combinatorial rectangle of a given colored square was shown to be NP-complete

- an appropriate definition of sophistication for infinite sequences was obtained

- new indexing mechanisms for Prolog predicates for improving support for vectorial spatial databases

- development of a network simulator for the analysis of the security properties of peer-to-peer protocols

- EcoSimNet: A complete Multi-Agent Simulation System capable of very realistic simulation of costal ecological environments has been developed

- ACORD/FC Portugal: A software common framework suitable for implementing an agent-based software to control different robots for several cooperative robotic tasks including in Robotic Soccer has been developed

- Web services for Portuguese text analysis: "LSP", a semantic lexicon for Portuguese,"ASP" for shallow semantic text analysis, "Verbatim", for quotations extraction from on-line news and respective topic classification. We start collaboration with SAPO company for possible commercial use of both "Verbatim" and a web advertisement suggestions system

- Adaptive control MAS and SOA-based solutions for automation and manufacturing systems, lead to the pre-registration of 3 patents. Research contract with Schneider Electric GmbH is produced very good results

- A patent was approved concerning the development of algorithms and methods for inferring precise measures on scene models after computer vision partial information (anatomic features extraction). Applied to the Calibration of Spine Bi-planar Radiography



Integrative/multidisciplinary activities during the year of 2008

--- with foreign entities

Google Labs [Text information extraction and retrieval]

Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, UK [Terrestrial Transports]

University of Amsterdam (UvA), ILPS Group [Information and Language Processing Systems]

‎--- with Portuguese entities

CEMAS- Centro de Modelação e Análise de Sistemas Ambientais da Universidade Fernando Pessoa [Environmental systems, Agent-based simulation]

Centre of Research, Education Innovation and Intervention in Sport-UP [AI in collective sports]

CIAGEB -Global Change, Energy, Environment and Bioengineering RDID&D Unit, in the University Fernando Pessoa (UFP). [Environmental systems, Agent-based simulation]

CIDTFF – Centro de Investigação Didáctica e Tecnologia na Formação de Formadores da Universidade de Aveiro [e-learning]

IDIT - Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Inovação Tecnológica [Automation, Manufacturing]

IEETA – Instituto de Engenharia Electrónica e Telemática da Universidade de Aveiro [robot teamscoordination]

INESC-Porto [information extraction for automatic tagging for musical items]

ISR- Instituto de Sistemas e Robótica, Porto [Hardware, Automated guided vehicles]

National Functional Brain Imaging Network (BIN), a Portuguese national network of four Portuguese Universities (Aveiro, Coimbra, Minho and Porto)  [Brain Imaging]

Universidade de Coimbra, Faculdade de Psicologia e Ciências da Educação [Handling of structured documents]

Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Letras [Handling of structured documents]

Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Medicina [Medical Informatics]

Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Psicologia e Ciências da Educação [Handling of structured documents]

Outreach activities during the year of 2008

- LIACC was officially accepted in 2008 as a potential partner in QREN-funded actions: Information and Communication Technologies; Management and Information; Communication Technologies and Digital Economy

- joint research activities with:

*TAP - Transportes Aéreos Portugueses: Disruption Management control

*SAPO (PT Group): information retrieval

*Enabler WiPro: Oracle Warehouse Builder; Oracle Retail Merchandise System

*Qimonda S.A: Project FATADesk, Report Center Module; Sensor and Equipment Control and Monitoring

*Geolink: traffic simulation and spatial databases

*Alert Life Science: HL7 Clinical Document Architecture Template Tools

*MOG - Media Objects and Gadgets, S.A.: Advanced Rich Internet Applications Devlopment

*Parque Natural da Ria Formosa: simulation of ecologic activities

*Sistemas de Informação Lda.: development of the International FrontEnd Kronos

*on traffic simulation: Câmara Municipal do Porto, STCP, Metro do Porto, Assoc Nac de Transportadores Rodoviários de Pesados de Passageiros, Optimização e Planeamento de Transportes, FCUP, FEUP

- systems for disabled people:

*wheelchair with intelligent control, under development in collaboration with APCC, Society for Cerebral Paralysis

*translator from mathematical expressions in LaTeX into Braille, Portuguese variant, publicly available as a Web service; in collaboration with Atractor, Interactive Mathematics

- software with wide distribution:

*GPSMan: a graphical manager of GPS data, 1998-2008, Linux Debian and Ubuntu distributions, FreeBSD Unix distribution, and GIS-Knoppix and AI9NL Linux Live-CDs; part of the Free-GIS CD

*Yap: state-of-the-art Prolog implementation with support for spatial data-bases, in collaboration with CRACS

- collaboration in postgraduate actions:

Doctoral PhD Programmes on:

* Computer Science, University of Porto

* Informatics Engineering, University of Porto

* Informatics (MAPI), Universities of Aveiro, Minho and Porto

* Telecommunications (MAPTele), Universities of Aveiro, Minho and Porto

Master of Science Programmes on:

* Computer Science

* Informatics Engineering

- science dissemination:

collaboration with Atractor, Interactive Mathematics, an association for the diffusion of Mathematics, in the development of interactive modules

- presentations of LIACC activities to the board of ERCIM European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics , at "Fórum Empresas 08", and to Softwell Solutions, Brasil, BLB Engenharia, Lda and AdI- Agência de Inovação

- presentations and other activities for the general public:

* two talks in the series "On the limits of Science" organized by the Health Sciences Institute, Porto

* talk at International Seminar on "Contemporary Architectural Challenges", Faculty of Architecture, University of Porto

* participation in the European 2008 Researchers Night in the Scientists Speed Dating event, Porto

* demos and talk at Open Week to Secondary Schools, FEUP

* talk at Senior University (PEUS)

* participation in "Learning Robotics using LEGO" in the scope of "Youth Scientific Holydays Activities", Ciência Viva

* organization of Reading Groups with the Faculties of Fine-Arts and of Arts of the University of Porto

* analysis of collaborative involvement of high-school students using MediaWiki, L-Escola


Research Groups


Title / Principal Investigator


Advanced Programming Systems
(Ana Paula Nunes Gomes Tomás)


Formal Models of Computation
(Sabine Babette Broda)


Language, Complexity and Cryptography
Barbot Campos Matos)


Distributed AI and Robotics Group
da Costa Oliveira)