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                                                                   Networking for Communications Challenged Communities:

                                                                   Architecture, Test Beds and Innovative Alliances

N4C Business and Deployment                    Research and Development


N4C business and deployment research and development aimed at describing, testing and evaluating business models suitable for business planning, and to identify suitable models for governance. The work is a new strand of research addressing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) access for remote, rural, and under-served communities, which is rooted on three pillars:

1. Business models

Both generic models for ICT devices and services and business models for Open Source Software (OSS) have been tested. For the DTN based internet access a business model developed by Hecker for OSS called Service Support Seller has been tested.

2. Governance models

N4C has been tested on Governance models based on recommendations by professor and Nobel Laureate in Economics Ellinor Ostrom´s models for managing Common Pool Resources (CPR). The research question is: what can we learn from those governing models when we develop models for N4C? Dry-run tests were conducted of usage of an economic association for the DTN based internet access.

3. Research methods

User-driven interactive research, with participatory design methods was used.

This approach was developed by Power Lake AB (PLAB) with support from LTU as an academic institution. From a business and deployment point of view, the N4C results are many-faceted. The concrete models addressing N4C conclusions are the result of collaboration between PLAB and each partner or group of partners.

The following services have been described and tested in business and deployment terms:

DTN based Internet access in Swedish Lapland and in Slovenia

Test Beds in Swedish Lapland and in Slovenia

MEIS´Applications (3)

1. Meteorological station AMS-DTN is a standalone meteorological station with DTN connectivity for estimation of wind power capacity.

2. Meteorological station with extended autonomy for critical situations measurements AMS-cs estimates the possible air pollution dispersion in the cases of accidents at nuclear power stations. This service is being rolledout and generates revenues.

3. Symbinode gamma dose rate measuring device u-garamo is a simple-to-use gamma dose rate measuring device for personal use.

Norut´s Apps for Hiker´s PDA

This is an application for a portable hand-held computer device for Communication Challenged Regions.

Tannak´s Animal Tracking

This is a service for identification and tracking of free-ranging livestock, wild animals, objects, and people.

UPM / Albentia´s

Wireless technology for sensitive areas.

LTU / TCD /IPLS/ Folly´s

Improving the usability of DTN based internet access (routing, podcast, NSIM, web cache, e-mail, and hardware).

The business and implementation models that were developed are based on informal interaction within the project and, a questionnaire. The results of the questionnaire show that SMEs and research institutes intend to use new developments in their businesses. Furthermore, the questionnaire showed that partners were very interested in the aspect of “give away” as an “OSS” or just “give away to other communities”.

For more information download N4C posters!

N4C’s contribution to the Future Internet is a significantly improved prospect for delivery of Internet access for all into regions that are communications challenged.

The N4C results enable people to build new types of networks. N4C has focused on highly challenging scenarios with sparse populations in remote and topographically complex areas. The solution investigated by N4C’s experiments in these challenging scenarios extends the evolving Delay- and Disruption-Tolerant Networking technology (DTN), enhances WiMAX wireless technology, and launches strategic applications including both generic and tailor-made for the target type of locations and scenarios.

The core is DTN and WiMAX access solutions that have proven stable and run autonomously for several months in real situations where the options for customary internet access were limited, unsatisfactory (unstable), too expensive or, not within physical reach.

Thanks to the real-life tests you can here find DTN software which has proven functional;

For internal communication within a local Delay Tolerant Network (DTN);

In transferring traffic back and forth between such a local network and the global Internet, and;

In transferring traffic between one local DTN via the global Internet to another local DTN.

You access the N4C DTN software, explanations and other data at: http://www.n4c.eu/N4C-open-source-code.php

Overview of the Science & Technology results/foregrounds of N4C


Pablo Vila, CEO of Albentia Systems S.A.: With the support of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Albentia Systems S.A. has achieved two unique implementation of WiMAX technology in N4C, one using multiple antennas and another for mesh connectivity. This can be used for repeaters to increase the coverage of WiMAX especially where terrain limits line-of-sight operation, and also to gather distributed information in large areas. A pilot WiMAX repeater network has been deployed in the south of Spain, to provide broadband access for real users. The deployment has run for over six months and as N4C ends it continues working. We also introduced an ad-hoc WiMAX network organizer, as generic entity for DTN and multi hop strategies.

Summing up, Albentia’s main achievements in N4C are:

  • A unique implementation of WiMAX technology working in mesh connectivity.
  • A unique implementation of WiMAX technology with multiple antennas. Albentia have selected an optimum combination at signal level that extracts the link diversity and also increases the Signal to Noise Ratio.
  • Test of the repeater connectivity in a real deployment in Spain
Albentia Systems, S.A.,

Albentia S.A. repeater installation in Spain


Knowledge must be shared for making a difference!

The N4C wiki is a tool for posting both preliminary

and final results making the N4C results available

to the public.

The wiki is developed and maintained by Elwyn Davies, Folly Consulting Ltd. with Instituto Pedro Nunes as back-up and provider of the One stop DTN

Dr. Mohammed-Aminu Sanda about N4C:

The N4C project has brought to the fore the issue of sustainability of technological innovations, in terms

of their business potentials and long term relevance to users. The project outcome has shown that good technological solutions could be designed and implemented in deprived communities in order to raise the quality of people’s social life. Yet, the provision and acceptance of the technology is not an end to its self.

Its sustenance as a future-oriented “service provision tool” to users is an important challenge identified in the project. Especially the research on developing a technology, society and business interactive model is of great significance, to guide future decision-making in the provision of business-oriented technological solutions and to help improve the social life of deprived communities. It will be a great idea to replicate some of the findings in other challenging environments.

Mohammed-Aminu Sanda has a PhD degree in Human Work Sciences (Organizational Design & Management) from Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences. He is a faculty member at the University of Ghana Business School and a visiting researcher at LTU. He is currently researching on a model to enhance social collaboration between Humans and Technology in the world of digitalization.

Publications by Dr. Sanda: http://www.ltu.se/staff/m/mohami-1.58568

Hardware aspects: Routers for field conditions

To have stable platforms to work from a necessary theme in N4C has been the design and implementation of DTN infrastructure which is autonomous and stable. Also, common-of-the-shelf (COTS) components were to be employed to limit the costs of the routers and to increase the availability of the routers beyond the lifetime of the project. A major requirement was that the hardware had to be resistant enough to be deployed in the harsh outdoor environments of the trial areas. Last but not least, the system had to be portable and possible to repositioned and transported. With this in mind, the system had to be designed as light as possible.

Throughout the project's lifetime different partners developed and tested different hardware solutions. Besides try-out of various hand-held portable end user devices, such as laptops and smart-phones (Nokia N810, Nokia N900, Asus EEE net-books), outdoor stations and data-mules were in focus of the hardware research.

Outdoor DTN node designs

For any networking accomplishment, the router is central. In the N4C case, power supply and rugged design needed be considered. These router nodes were developed in N4C and used in the Swedish Lapland test bed in the final year of N4C, building on the experience of test experience achieved step by step during the whole project period:

The Dublin based joint team from Trinity College Dublin and IPLS (Intel) developed the DTN village router. This router is based on Intel® Atom processor on a Proteus board from Eurotech. The board provides a number of interfaces which allows adding multiple radios. The board batteries are embedded into a metal enclosure that can be left outside beside the solar panel stand together with the antenna. This solar power router was used in a number of different tests during the project period and the team had different network configurations on the system. An advanced power management that goes to the standby mode in the night is used to prolong the system autonomy time. In the summer 2010 the weather conditions were very “Arctic” with cloudy weather. In these unfavourable conditions the power management made that the autonomy was increased from one day to a couple of days. The Village router is described in Deliverable 5.3

Another DTN outdoor node was designed by Luleå University of Technology. This DTN outdoor station is built around the Cambria embedded network board, based on the Intel® IXP43x series Xscale CPU. The main board is mounted together with the 100Ah 12V battery and internal antenna into a rugged waterproof plastic box on wheels. If bigger wireless range is needed, an external high gain antenna can be used.

During the N4C tests, power management was not included in the DTN outdoor station. Partly, this had to do with traffic opportunities. Having the station up and running 24 hours a day allowed utilisation of opportunistic connections, for instance in case of unscheduled helicopter flights (in the Lapland tests, the helicopters were used as data mules, transporting traffic to and from the DTN network to the Internet). But, this rugged and sturdy system included large battery capacity (one week of system autonomy without external power source). Two different power sources (solar panel and wind-generator) provided reliable power supply.

The experimental character of N4C includes that different solutions were involved in both software and hardware during the tests. Partly, this came out as results of necessities. Considering the tight test schedules, when something was needed, the teams just had to fix it. But also in such arrangements, the differences in the hypotheses trialled show. When comparing the two autonomous router set-ups, the different capacities of the teams and, their different experience from the local setting in Lapland emerge as factors in the design choices. The Intel-TCD team’s design includes the engineering sophistication one would expect from such an excellent team. The LTU design, on the other hand, includes the long term experience from Arctic conditions this locally based team represented. Even if also in the Lapland mountains, the weather can be quite pleasant, sunny and warm during one summer or even two summers in a row, in the long term sun light is not a reliable commodity.

DTN Village Router from TCD and Intel on the left, DTN Outdoor Station from LTU on the right


Integration and simulation platforms

The N4C System Integration had two functions in N4C: to produce application and integration platforms and, as a part of the internal work progress, to carry out independent technical validation.

The core of the results from the N4C system integration work package are:

  • The N4C Integration Platform

  • The N4C Simulation Platform

The results are presented in the Deliverables of WP7, see the Deliverables list http://www.n4c.eu/Deliverables.php. Deliverable 7.4 presents a conclusive evaluation and final update of the platforms. The document is on the one hand intended to be a “beginner’s guide” for N4C DTN networking and application, and at the same time explain the “why” and “how” of the integration process. IPN developed key installation packages for different distributions of Linux like Ubuntu or Fedora. These installation packages installs services like dtn, pymail, mysql, postfix, squid and front end to manage the services. To make services and applications work together, an integration platform was developed which provides end users with a single interface that aggregates applications and services and allows management of all. However, in a user community, there often are technically interested persons or entrepreneurs who want to develop their own services, or improve the components provided by the N4C project. For this type of purpose, the integration platform can be modular or an abstraction layer, so that new modules can be easily integrated.

Block Diagram relating each module of the Integration Platform developed by Instituto Pedro Nunes (Hiker’s Application referring to several services collected in the Hiker’s Personal Digital Assistant concept)