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                                                                   Networking for Communications Challenged Communities:

                                                                   Architecture, Test Beds and Innovative Alliances

The N4C way of working

Methodology in a Future Paradigms and Experimental Facilities project 2008-2011

The Coordination of N4C has been with the Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Science at Luleå University of Technology (LTU). This department has a tradition since the 1970’s, of cooperating with actors in communities, public organs, SMEs, and industry, in user driven technology development. This topical location defines the very core of N4C as a FIRE project: to connect latest internet development directly with the use situations and to future users of the envisioned R&D results. The project has combined a genuine contemporary front-line of networking research with the ‘Scandinavian tradition’ of participatory technology design. One step to create real interaction was to build test beds embedded in end-users’ every-day contexts in remote areas. Tests were executed according to this strategy in Slovenia and Sweden all from the project start. The procedure of setting up tests in especially the very remote location of the summer tests in Sweden is time consuming and in several ways resource demanding. Yet, the real-life test strategy showed to have several advantages. At the outset N4C adopted the spiral development model. The research teams, as much as the technology, were effectively exposed to complicated conditions that gave input to the next steps of technology design. This technique has been effective and spurred advancement in areas from power management to network routing. Moreover, scientifically speaking, some quite valuable results of N4C come from the collected connectivity and network traffic trace files gathered from its real life tests. In DTN research real-world traces have been a scarce commodity, something which affects for instance the validity of simulated network scenarios. This theme will be further disseminated in research among the project partners after the project end, but additionally, the trace files are made publicly available for the benefit of the global research community.

Though the relation to real use situations is typical for N4C, to understand N4C correctly, one need be aware that the majority of efforts have been put into quite normal routines of technical research and development. The technical challenges have been notable and, the efforts needed to come to terms with these challenges should not be under estimated. An effect is that, before being able to respond to user requests and input, with accomplishments that are realistic enough to be assessed, the time/efforts required has in several instances been quite extensive. For instance, the N4C architecture itself is from start a response to a request from reindeer herders in Northern Scandinavia, for access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Clearly, network routing where there is no end-to-end connectivity is a challenge and, strategic issues like how to arrange network naming and addressing in such conditions affect how services such as e-mail can be supported. Furthermore, before presenting any results in those realms, it is necessary to design and establish user interfaces that are meaningful in relation to their target use situations and, not least that allow others than the research team members themselves to develop a view on their value.

On this page, some voices from the research teams are collected. For further reading, see also our deliverables and papers. All public deliverables and a collection of papers and presentations are found here.


Susanne Spik and Karin Kuoljok, founders of Tannak AB

Tannak AB is a SME founded by Sámi reindeer herders who have a strong interest in the Sámi culture and in the development of a special part of the heritage - the life with the reindeer. In N4C Tannak has worked with usage of communication technology to modernize, and to facilitate and streamline the daily reindeer herding work. By Tannak’s participation the project development has been done in close cooperation whit users, taking into account the culture and people who live within the N4C test area in Swedish Lapland. It is important that the technology does not disrupt but complement the culture. Tannak therefore recognize that their participation in research projects spread knowledge and educate the partners about Sámi and reindeer industry conditions.

Read Tannak’s digital diary

telling about N4C tests in Swedish Lapland

From a Test Bed to a Living Lab

In summer 2010 N4C TAB member Michael Gurstein PhD visited MEIS laboratories and the Slovene test bed.

The purpose of the visit was to discuss Test beds and Living Laboratories.

Michael Gurstein was MEIS guest for two days with discussions and visit to MEIS meteorological DTN nodes and he also met MEIS volunteer that was the first one that used u-GaRaMo monitor and Symbionode. The visit was very enjoyable for all and resulted in a “mini pilot Living Laboratory” in his Blog “From a Test Bed to a Living Lab: Some Community Informatics Thoughts on Community Oriented Science”.



Norut (Northern Research Institute Tromsø) was leader for the work package ‘Pervasive applications’. Norut’s own application was the Hiker’s PDA. All applications were tested in their future use situations..

The second N4C Norut Summer Test took place in Staloluokta, Sweden the 16th to 19th of August 2010. The development of the Hiker’s app in WP3 is in its final stage where we are concentrating on the integration of the DTN2 for the PDAs and net book computers… The type of questions we would like to investigate: Maximum distance of communication with standard Wi-Fi cards, and test of communication using DTN2 software. Read Norut’s log from the summer tests 2010

Read also the description and evaluation of the N4C pervasive applications here

Santiago-2.jpgProfessor Zazo says about the work process: We have been very motivated to work with a certain air interface that enables communication with mobile nodes mounted on animals (reindeer in this case), in order to facilitate herd tracking. This challenge has put engineers and users in contact and, in the end a couple of complementary approaches have come up. One proposes all the nodes equipped with batteries while the other, makes use or harvesting procedures to get energy from the animal movement to trigger a short transmission with required information. It is very important to remark the close collaboration between Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Tannak AB. The view and real needs of final users that Tannak AB can offer, as being a locally owned company in the reindeer grazing area, has shaped the engineering achievements. Also, as engineers we have supported them briefing on the procedure to test a system according to objective criteria.

Let us emphasize that several tests carried out in different countries as North Sweden, Spain and Ireland confirm that out designs comply with the requirements very satisfactorily.

Professor Santiago Zazo Bello,

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

​was leader of the Air-interface technologies work package in N4C.

System architecture for remote and communications challenged communities

Essential for the N4C way of working was the unconventional mix of rural access ambitions with advanced networks theory. Elwyn Davies, Folly Consulting Ltd. U.K., was the leader of the System Architecture work package. Read the description from System Architecture point of view if you have interest in an advanced level comprehensive description of the project and in particular its results.


N4C tests in a nutshell

Do you want to get a grip over the real life test procedures? This easy-going video introduces some of the test procedures described in our different reports. It starts with views from our lab preparations and then, takes you to the field locations in Slovenia and Sweden.

Videos and picks


Making platforms for all

The System Integration team in N4C was lead by Instituto Pedro Nunes, Portugal (work package leader) with ITTI Ltd, Poland as the major co-worker.

Besides the technical contributions of the N4C System Integration team, they also had a vision of making the N4C DTN available for all. The user and community oriented platforms which they produced make the N4C results available to a broader audience. The results have been developed in relation to a set of goals, keeping in mind:

  • The end user in remote regions:

    • Deployment of a user friendly common platform;

    • No technical knowledge required;

    • Community acceptance;

  • The economies of remote regions

    • Create the conditions to stimulate the appearance of local communications providers based on DTN

  • The project / system:

    • Testing all the modules in different conditions;

    • Provide to the DTN community a Simulation Platform for testing real cases;


Steps to promote the DTN tools in remote regions. Scheme for deployment strategy developed by Instituto Pedro Nunes. See the integration platform One Stop DTN www.n4c.eu/onestopdtn


An opportunity for information about the N4C way of working.

Paulo Freitas, IPN, presenting an N4C demo for Per Blixt,

Head of Unit New Infrastructure Paradigms and Experimental Facilities,

and N4C Dissemination leader Barbro Fransson, PLAB.