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                                                                   Networking for Communications Challenged Communities:

                                                                   Architecture, Test Beds and Innovative Alliances


N4C a step forwards for ICT in challenging scenarios

The N4C future Internet vision has been to take a major step towards Internet access for all, through a research effort to support the extension of Internet or Internet-like communication capabilities into regions that are ‛communications challenged’. For this purpose N4C has focused on the most challenging scenarios with populations and local industry in remote and topographically complex areas. As solution we have pushed forwards the capacity of the evolving Delay and Disruption Tolerant Networking technology (DTN) combined with wireless technology, in particular with enhancement of WiMAX solutions for challenging scenarios.

As the project concludes in April 2011, it is fulfilling to find that N4C has succeeded in its ambitions. As the project ends we present DTN access solutions and applications that have proven stable and run autonomously for several months in real situations. Environmental nodes for critical situations measurements in nuclear industry and, results in the WiMAX area are already made available on the market. More commercial results will come. N4C has also provided vital input to the DTN standardization efforts. Contributions were made to nine areas including the PRoPHET Routing Protocol, the Endpoint Discovery Protocol for DTN, the Bundle Security Protocol, and more. Advancement to experimental RFC status is expected for several documents.                                                                 

Methodologically, our designs and hypotheses have been investigated in simulations combined with laboratory tests and importantly real-life tests in remote test beds. Test beds were built by N4C in Slovenian Kočevje and Swedish Lapland. Throughout the project, tests embedded in end-users’ every-day lives were regularly performed in these sites. In the last year, WiMAX and the combination of WiMAX and DTN were tested in a real life context in Spain, and at a technical test site in Ireland. The tests have given opportunity to include interaction with target end users and the experience from use situations in the knowledge generation. At the outset N4C adopted the spiral development model. This technique has been effective and spurred advancement in areas from power management to routing. Technical progress need be complemented with social sciences input and informed strategies for inclusion. To promote equal access, socio-economic research on the implementation context and issues of gender and culture has complemented the technical strand. The development of business and implementation models carried out in N4C can suggest models and generic, theoretically based analysis of problems connected to remote and rural areas, the use of open source and other issues of interest for the realization of technical progress in society.

For the economic impetus a range of applications was developed to prototype level or further, reaching from unique applications for DTN, to the transfer of generic services such as e-mail. The theme of animal tracking has provided fundamental challenges to engineering science and has major economic relevance for many remote areas. In terms of hardware ‘nomadic-friendly’, light weight solutions have been favoured for infra structure as well as applications. A portable ‘Village router’ was developed based on an Intel Atom based SBC. Business models and exploitation plans have been developed. Complete sets of Open Source software for several applications and the establishment of DTN based networks, are described in open documents. These are made available through the N4C web site www.n4c.eu, the n4c wiki and other channels, together with installation packages and integration platforms for professional and end-user communities. The Slovenian test bed has been offered to the FIRE test bed federation, as a complement to the large scale facilities for the traditionally connected regions.

Dissemination has been central with newsletters, a permanent exhibition at the Intel Open Innovation Lab, and other measures. The final conference ‘Future Internet Learning from Experience’ was arranged as an Internet event and included keynote speeches by Vinton G. Cerf and Patrik Fältström. Among the audience was official representation from the Swedish Sámi Parliament. N4C has resulted in the start of one new SME, and all partners see spin-off effects in their respective areas. Results are already taken further into one new FP7 project (SAIL). Dissemination through an EU Leonardo da Vinci project, ‘e-Learning DTN’ has started. One PhD thesis has been published and additionally five are expected within the next two years.