Lapland Robotics – Best practice at Lapland University

Lapland Robotics is a cooperative project between the Lapland University of Applied Sciences and the University of Lapland. The project’s goal is to integrate robots, artificial intelligence, and digital twins into Lapland’s low-carbon society while also greatly increasing the region’s innovative capability in the creation of low-carbon and energy-efficient processes, goods, and services. The project’s overall cost is 583,000 euros, with the Federation of Lapland providing 466,401 euros in financing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the state

The objective of the project is to link diverse players, implement experiments with robots, artificial intelligence, and digital twins that are tailored to the demands of SMEs, and determine the operational models and scaling potential required by these solutions. The project will provide Lapland’s SMEs with novel information on how to promote responsibility, new business, material efficiency, and energy efficiency using robots, artificial intelligence, and digital twins. This makes Lapland’s higher education institutions even more competitive in R&D activities in the subject area, both nationally and globally, allowing for the long-term internationalization of firms.

The project investigates the viability of robots, artificial intelligence, and digital twins as a cooperation platform by bringing together various actors from technology firms as users of solutions. The project investigates the present state of technology and service models and develops a strategy for deploying diverse technologies in various industries. The project will put robots, artificial intelligence, and digital twins to the test in the field, laboratories, small-scale proof-of-concept settings, and 5G environments. The project produces open information about unmanned robot prototypes, which are tested in field situations in collaboration with corporations and users.

One of the robot prototypes developed within the project was the “mini ATV robot, which was designed and built during the Lapland Robotics project. Its construction included 3D modeling and an automated driving test, which guarantees its functionality and safety.

One of the robot prototypes developed within the project was the “mini ATV robot, which was designed and built during the Lapland Robotics project. Its construction included 3D modeling and an automated driving test, which guarantees its functionality and safety.

Mini ATV allows you to work both indoors and outdoors and is suitable for use in both summer and winter conditions. In addition, it is possible to connect a Stiga snow thrower to the front of the mini ATV, which makes it an excellent option for winter use”

Due to the success of the project, the robotic work continue within the new project AI.R- Arctic AI & Robotics where the project teams intends to develop various service and application concepts, robotics and artificial intelligence demos implemented at the proof-of-concept level, and prototypes to be piloted by users in the following subject areas: thermal camera applications and usability development, autonomous platforms and their development in Lapland conditions, and robots and artificial intelligence as part of society.

Webinar – Intersecting Horizons: Physics, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5GWebinar @ Uzhhorod National University

On Tuesday, March 26, as part of the international scientific project “Deep Tech Empowerment for Higher Education Institutions” Skills2Scale, a webinar titled “Intersection of Horizons: Physics, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G” took place. The event was initiated by representatives from the Faculty of Physics, involving collaboration from five faculties of the Uzhhorod National University.

The webinar was conducted in a hybrid format, combining both online and offline participation. The participants included academic and scientific staff, as well as students from the Faculty of Physics, totaling approximately 50 attendees. The speaker of the event was Alexander Homonnai, PhD in Physics and Mathematics, Associate Professor at the Department of Optics, Faculty of Physics, Uzhhorod National University.

During the webinar, participants had the opportunity to gain insights into the capabilities of 5G technologies, including their features, advantages, and drawbacks, as well as a comparison with other contemporary data transmission systems, including Wi-Fi 7 and Starlink. Oleksandr Homonnai also briefed attendees on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the impact of 5G networks and satellite communication on its operations. The event speaker elucidated the disparity between cloud and fog computing, along with their relationship with the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G.

A significant piece of information for physicists and researchers is the review of materials with low losses for 5G devices and the comparison of their efficiency based on key factors. Given that most scientific disciplines within the physics department are linked to materials science, this provided an opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with materials currently under active research and promising for the functional electronics of mobile communication for 5th and 6th generations.

Also featured in the webinar was Dr. Tetiana Babuka, PhD, Chair of the Council of Young Scientists at the Faculty of Physics, and Coordinator of the Scientific Grant Activities Department. She elaborated on the opportunities provided by the implementation of the international project “Deep Tech Empowerment for Higher Education Institutions” Skills2Scale at the Faculty of Physics for students and young scientists. Ms. Tetiana highlighted the significant impact of modern technologies on the educational and scientific components of Uzhhorod National University. She emphasized that any innovative invention begins with an idea, followed by scientific research, modeling, or design. Thus, students and young scientists were urged not to hesitate to present their innovative ideas at the annual “Startup-UzhNU” competition and to participate in the startup project or innovative ideas competition under the DeepTech Accelerator program

Open SDK for the development of (B)5G Network Applications

Author: Regel Gonzalez Usach, UPV

Network Application or Network App is a software piece that interacts with the control plane of a (B)5G network by consuming exposed APIs in a standardized and trusted way, to compose and offer services built upon network functionality to authorized applications. This way, Network Apps can allow application and services to be network-aware, benefiting from real-time network information and taking advantage of network functionality. 

A Network App can be considered as a vertical application with the additional capability to consume northbound APIs of a mobile network in a trusted way compliant to the exposure policies of the mobile operator. The introduction of a Network App ecosystem is something beyond the introduction of a new type of vertical applications; it refers to the request for a separated middleware layer between applications and the 5G Network control plane; this middleware will simplify the implementation and deployment of vertical systems at large scale.  

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An open Software Development Kit for facilitating the creation of Network App has been provided by the H2020 EVOLVED-5G project, and it is available through this link. This SDK provides a Network App template and a set of libraries for facilitating the programming of the services to be offered through the Network App exposed APIs. 

Open source technologies for deploying a lab-grade 5G environment

Author: Alejandro Fornés Leal, UPV

This best practice aims at presenting a set of open source tools that can be utilized for deploying a lab-grade 5G network. They can be used for different purposes, for instance, (i) as practical lessons for HEI courses, (ii) to contribute to the research over specific 5G hardware or software components, or (iii) as custom network for lab-grade testing of applications. A 5G network implementation considers three domains: radio, network and core. Still, different layers can be found: the hardware layer, which includes all the radio, network and processing equipment needed by any network to be functional; the virtualization layer, which abstracts the computing resources to be easily managed and allows the execution of virtual machines and/or containers; and the 5G services layer, which comprises all those services needed to deploy a 5G network, mainly 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) and 5G Core (5GC), as well as other useful services.

Let’s start with the basic equipment needed for having a functional lab-grade 5G network ongoing. To that end, we would need at least:

  • A server of enough processing capacity to deploy the 5G RAN and 5G Core functions. Its requirements depend on the open source solutions adopted. Ideally, it would be better to have two servers in order to split the radio and core features, but in some cases, this is not needed.
  • Dedicated radio equipment. This selection depends on the budget available and, again, for the open source solution considered to perform as RAN, but software-defined radio equipment such as the USRP family or the SYRTEM platform along with 5G compatible antennas can be considered.
  • Then, an IP-based network connectivity among all the former devices and with access to the Internet is needed. A 10 Gb connection would be ideal, but not mandatory.
  • Finally, the end devices. Apart from compatible smartphones, other great devices for testing are RaspberryPis. Although not inherently compatible with 5G, they can be adapted with specific kits, such as those from the Waveshare and Sixfab families. Regardless of the device considered, the key point is to select a compatible chipset with the open source solutions selected.

It is again important to highlight that the selection of the previous equipment depends on the open source solutions to consider. Particularly, the following are the two most important elements of a 5G network, which at this moment can be installed over the aforementioned server/s:

  • 5GC: One can find many free open sources solutions available: Open5GS, OAI 5N, free5GC and magma. They may have different features implemented, but follow the official releases of the 3GPP.
  • 5G RAN: One can find two main distributions: OAI 5G RAN and the srsRAN Project.

Putting all the previous pieces together is not trivial and require certain knowledge of 5G and networking concepts. Once the system is deployed, it should be tested with compatible devices. Therefore, if the system works correctly, a basic lab-grade system would be in place. However, it is important to highlight that spectrum is regulated, and depending on the country, tests might be done on reserved bandwidths or directly forbidden. In the latter case, the use of anechoic boxes or chambers is encouraged, to not disrupt commercial networks.

From now on, the rest of actions contribute to enhancing the system, but are complementary and not a requirement for making work a basic 5G stack. It is likely that, at this moment, at least Docker has been installed over an Operating System to deploy the 5G RAN and the 5GC. We can go a step further if specialized knowledge regarding virtualization technologies is available, by:

  • Installing Kubernetes on top of the servers for deploying and managing the lifecycle of the virtualized 5G services (5G RAN, 5GC and others), in the form of containers;
  • Installing OpenStack on top of the servers for managing the virtualized 5G services, in the form of virtual machines (5G RAN, 5GC and others). 

In this way, we would be adding a more professional touch to the laboratory, and in the specific case of Kubernetes, it would add autonomous healing and scaling capabilities to the system and we would be able to deploy complementary technologies for gathering logs, metrics, add security, etc. There is a plethora of open source solutions available in the CNCF webpage, of interest because of the transformation of 5G software towards Cloud Native. Still, as mentioned, expertise is needed.

The two previous virtualization technologies are agnostic to 5G. However, the following ones are more specific to it, and can be used for managing specific aspects of the system:

  • Software Defined Network (SDN) controller. It manages the flow control of the network switches for improving network management and application performance. This can be used if our network has switches compatible with the OpenFlow protocol, or if our virtualized network equipment has compatible virtual switches like Open vSwitch. Several solutions, most of them open source, can be found (see link).
  • Management and Orchestration (MANO) framework. It manages and orchestrates the lifecycle of the 5G services deployed over our infrastructure, virtual or physical, following ETSI MANO specifications. It allows as well the provisioning of network slices. There are some open source solutions in place, but we highlight OSM as it stems directly from the ETSI, and EMCO as more complex but powerful management solution.
  • Open RAN. This is a more complex concept that require very deep knowledge of 5G and may go beyond this best practice. Open RAN is a non-proprietary version of the Radio Access Network (RAN) system that allows interoperation between cellular network equipment provided by different vendors. The O-RAN Software Community is a collaboration between the O-RAN ALLIANCE and Linux Foundation with the mission to support the creation of open software for the RAN. 
  • Multi-access edge Computing (MEC) platform. Itis a type of network architecture that provides cloud computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of the network. Operators can open their RAN to authorized third-parties, allowing them to deploy innovative applications and services towards mobile subscribers, enterprises and vertical segments. Among open source software, one can find EdgeGallery, the aforementioned EMCO platform, and OAI MEP.
  • 5G NetApps. A Network Application (NetApp) is a software piece that interacts with the control plane of a mobile network by consuming exposed APIs (e.g., Northbound APIs of 5G core) in a standardized and trusted way to compose services for the vertical industries or to any other sector. One great set of resources have been produced by the EVOLVED-5G  project, including an SDK, a NetApp template and a set of complementary tools to develop and validate NetApps.

The latter aspects are more complex and go beyond the basics, but it is important to be aware of all the 5G technological branches to enable the possibility to be innovative in the 5G arena. Apart from the solutions listed, there are much more open source solutions available, still these have been selected as they are one of the most updated and supported by the community.

Active Arctic

Digital environments and solutions supporting the well-being and business of sparsely populated areas

Unique geographical and demographic characteristics, such as long distances, an aging population, and limited accessibility, shape Lapland’s operational landscape. However, these challenges also present opportunities for Lapland to specialize and become a model region for addressing remote location challenges through digital solutions supporting well-being

The Active Arctic project has identified crucial needs within the welfare sector, laying the groundwork for appropriate technologies and digital solutions. Employing service design methods, collaboration, and leveraging strengths are pivotal in developing operational environments and innovative business models.

The project has facilitated the adoption of digital services among welfare SMEs in Lapland, raising awareness through programmes such as Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) ecosystem model and Wellbeing Technology Fairs. Despite Lapland’s strong background in public sector healthcare services, technologies find wider application in other sectors. Nevertheless, Lapland possesses expertise in remote well-being services and virtual reality (VR) technologies, offering potential for technological integration into SME services.

The DIH Roadmap outlines strategies for supporting digital transitions, emphasizing VR and XR technologies and promoting cooperative models among stakeholders. It aims to provide comprehensive support services for SMEs in the well-being sector, including digital transition, innovation, and commercialization support.

Recommendations include creating spaces for SMEs to experiment with technology, raising awareness about digital potentials, enhancing digital skills, and integrating digital competence into educational programs. Elevating virtual reality as a flagship technology and leveraging Lapland’s strengths and existing technology are vital for well-being development.

In conclusion, coordinated efforts to enhance digitalization, raise awareness, and develop digital skills are essential for Lapland’s welfare sector to thrive amidst ongoing reforms and changing landscapes, ultimately fostering sustainable growth and innovation in the region.

Please find more information here: https://blogi.eoppimispalvelut.fi/activearctic/in-english/ 

Innovation Hub East at the Technical University of Liberec

by Jana Šimanová

On Friday, 1st March 2024, Deans Jaromír Moravec and Aleš Kocourek and CxI Director Miroslav Černík welcomed guests from the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Urban Mobility – Innovation Hub East at the Technical University of Liberec. Since May last year, TUL has been part of the European Innovation Network within the Skills2Scale project (we wrote about it here). The guests from EIT were mainly interested in projects related to sustainable transport, autonomous mobility, energetics, and renewable energy sources. During the meeting, dr. Traian Urban presented all the activities of the EIT Urban Mobility – Innovation Hub East. Dean Aleš Kocourek introduced the EIT representatives to the structure of TUL and the research focus of its divisions. Dr. Josef Břoušek presented research and development in autonomous mobility and Dr. Lukáš Hubka in the field of energetics and renewable energy sources. Later, the guests visited several research laboratories and attended demonstrations of prototypes of single- and two-track electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Many other topics were discussed throughout the visit, including the possibilities of coordinating activities for developing international cooperation of TUL in research, development, and innovation, as well as technology transfer and support for startups and spinoffs.   

Innovation Hub East was established in January 2020 and covers the geographical area of the eastern part of Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Israel. As of August 2020, the main office is located in the center of Prague, Czech Republic. Innovation Hub East works with partners from top universities, research centers, cities and municipalities, industrial corporations, and small and medium-sized enterprises. The partners are active in many projects covering the topics of functional mobility, micro-mobility, shared mobility, traffic monitoring through artificial intelligence, smart parking, building and monitoring innovative urban transport ecosystems, as well as projects related to the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases. Innovation Hub East is actively expanding its family of partners across Europe and facilitating the collaboration of international consortia and teams to build sustainable urban spaces that provide a qualitatively higher standard of living for citizens. Innovation Hub East is also active in organizing acceleration and scale-up programs. 

A webinar titled: “How can one effectively showcase their startup during a pitch?” was conducted at Uzhhorod National University (UzhNU)

On Thursday, February 29th 2024, the Startup Center of Uzhhorod National University initiated a webinar aimed at students, graduate students, and young researchers on the topic: “How can one effectively showcase their startup during a pitch?”

Approximately 50 students and young scholars from five structural units, namely the dental, physical, and biological faculties, the faculty of information technologies, as well as the Scientific and Educational Institute of Chemistry and Ecology, participated in the webinar. The event was addressed by Kateryna Skubenych, Head of the Department of Patent and Licensing Providing and Commercialization. The webinar was conducted within the framework of the implementation of the international scientific project “Deep Tech Empowerment for Higher Education Institutions” Skills2Scale.

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During the webinar, participants were provided with insights on developing a successful startup project, assembling a startup team, understanding the role of a mentor and their contributions, as well as the importance of seeking mentorship support in a startup context. Additionally, attendees were guided on how to identify potential investors for implementing their startup projects.

Also presenting at the webinar was Inha Besehanych, a Master of the Faculty of Foreign Philology and an engineer at the Department of Scientific Grant Activities. She informed participants about the Massive online open course “5G Technologies and Business Innovation Potential“, designed for students, postgraduates, and young researchers from higher education institutions. This course aims to provide new knowledge on the utilization of advanced technologies, offering comprehensive information on the fundamentals of 5G and Beyond 5G technologies, highlighting their immense potential for innovation.

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All participants of the webinar expressed satisfaction with the communication and information exchange, and also highlighted the benefits of conducting such events aimed at enhancing the quality of innovative and entrepreneurial education.

5G and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem at the University of Lapland

Author: Laura Ulatowski

The Arctic Centre, University of Lapland hosted as part of the EIT HEI SKills2Scale project, a peer learning event in Rovaniemi, Finland. The objective of the event was to share experiences and best practices in the fields of education, research, and innovation to foster inspiration among Higher Education Institution (HEI) administrators to explore new possibilities, opportunities, and paths to take to initiate innovation in their institutions.

To portray our project partners an accurate impression of the deep tech and entrepreneurship landscape in Lapland, we invited speakers from our local ecosystem to present their work and share knowledge.

The approach we took for this peer learning event was to begin by presenting about the availability, opportunities and challenges of implementing 5G technology at the University of Lapland. To do so, we invited a speaker from University of Oulu who has high capabilities in the field of 5G and Lapland University of Applied Sciences who is currently deploying its 5G network to share their view about implementing 5G at the University of Lapland.

After looking at the network capabilities we continued with a session about the research on 5G and entrepreneurship at the University of Lapland. The main point raised was that there is an increasing need to look at 5G technology from a legal and social sciences perspective since these disciplines can help address societal challenges concerning 5G. Since entrepreneurship is a crucial part of our project work, we invited an expert from the University of Lapland to present the start-up and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Following two lively sessions about the 5G and Beyond ecosystem at the University of Lapland, the day continued with a session about technology and its utilization in Lapland, a representative from the Chamber of Commerce in Lapland gave our project partners a deeper insight into the region itself as well its opportunities and challenges. Since Lapland is a peripheral region in the Arctic, there are a few particularities to consider when implementing new technologies.

To facilitate the knowledge intake, we organized three site visits to meet local stakeholders and hear their stories and deepen the project partners’ understanding of the local ecosystem. 

Our successful peer learning event is part of a series of regional peer learning events across europe. You can find the recap of our first peer learning event in Valencia, Spain in the digital library and will soon find news about our upcoming peer learning events in Liberec and Thessaloniki.

Final Pitch Deck@TUL: Students from three faculties join forces to tackle 5G/digital health challenges

Author: Jana Simanova

“Entrepreneurship is a key skill for success in the job market or for developing your own business. Every modern university should develop it for its students. However, such a skill cannot simply be developed in the classroom,” explains Jana Simanová, Vice Dean of Faculty of Economics at TUL. “That is why this winter semester we organised a unique educational experiment at TUL, which brought together students from three faculties – the Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Mechatronics and the Faculty of Health Studies – to solve interesting projects.”

“We started on 6th October with an Ideathon. During the three-hour event, representatives from T-Mobile, Linet and the Regional Hospital in Liberec presented their innovative challenges to thirty students from the Faculty of Mechatronics, the Faculty of Health Studies and the Faculty of Economics. During the Ideathon, the students questioned the challengers and expert mentors about the details of the problems and known solutions. In the end, they formed 4 teams with representatives from all three faculties and defined the goals of their joint projects and initial proposals for innovative solutions,” says Jana Vitvarová, author of the concept of the 5G Interdisciplinary Innovation Lab at TUL and lecturer of students from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Over the next two months, the students worked on the solutions in their faculty courses and developed them according to their expertise – from a technical, economic and future user point of view. The work included visits to startup companies or paramedic services, consultations with expert mentors and a one-day hackathon for mechatronics students to come up with a technical concept.

“The biggest challenge for the students was communication within the teams. They didn’t know each other before the course started, they study different disciplines with different timetables and they had to synchronise their work. I think it was a useful lesson for everyone that it is important to respect other professionals and try to understand the perspectives of other disciplines,” says Lenka Koskova Triskova, a lecturer of the students from the Smart Technologies specialisation at Faculty of Mechatronics.

The work of the interdisciplinary teams culminated on 23rd November. In front of a panel of experts, the students presented their solution and business plan.The panel of experts included representatives from innovative technology companies and experts in the field of digitalisation and healthcare. Specifically, the teams tackled issues such as the localisation and online tracking of hospital equipment, communication and messaging between paramedic teams and hospitals, and the monitoring of elderly people with neurodegenerative diseases.

The winner of the first year of the 5G Interdisciplinary Innovation Lab was a team of students who designed a new solution for the paramedic team to share information about patients and the course of interventions between dispatch, hospitals and field teams in dealing with mass disasters. “The most interesting part of the whole work for us was that we were in close contact with paramedics and professional mentors. We knew that we were working to solve a real problem and that we could really make a difference,” says Filip Tichacek, a student at the Faculty of Mechatronics and a member of the winning team. His colleague Antonin Sahula adds: “I told myself that I would study some economics because it is important and as a technician I need to be able to get along with economists if I want to run a company one day. So far I haven’t been interested in it at all”.

“For us, the organisers, the most important thing now is the retrospective and the feedback from the students, so that we can continue to improve in preparing similar forms of teaching,” says Jana Vitvarová, summing up her impressions on behalf of the organisers. “We definitely want to repeat and develop the concept. We all enjoyed connecting students from different faculties – the students and us. For example, the area of smart solutions for cities and a whole range of other ideas are on offer”.

“The whole event could not have taken place without the active participation of the practitioner challengers and expert mentors. We are very grateful to Vit Karvay, Technical Director of the global company LINET, Head of the Science and Research Centre of the Regional Hospital in Liberec Vendula Macháčková, Lukáš Abazid from T-Mobile, Jakub Recek, paramedic, Lenka Horakova, geriatric specialist and Pavel Hübner from Hardwario for their helpful suggestions and excellent cooperation.” concludes Jana Simanová, Vice Dean for Conception and Development of the EF TUL and adding that she hopes the students will continue to develop and improve their projects. A great opportunity is, for example, the participation in the EIT Health Open Innovation Call.

Skill2Scale Transnational Brokerage Event: Forging Collaborative Frontiers

Author: Michael Mandamadiotis

On the 22nd of November, in the frameworks of the Skills2Scale project the Transnational Brokerage Event: “Forging Collaborative Frontiers” was co-organised with the Startup Europe Regions Network. The aim of this digital event was to encourage and enable effective partnerships that lead to successful collaborative projects in the field of Beyond 5G technology. The brokerage services helped to identify potential partners, facilitate introductions, and provide support for the development of partnerships.

During the event, Marios Roides, Innovation Consultant in Enterprise Europe Network made a very insightful presentation on Horizon Europe Cluster 4 “Digital, Industry and Space”. The focus was on collaborative opportunities, funding prospects, and guidelines for application under Horizon Europe’s Cluster 4.

Additionally, Patricia Tejada, EU Project Manager at Finnovaregio provided her knowledge and expertise on the Erasmus+ programme. Her approach was around  an introduction to Erasmus+ engagements, benefits for HEIs, success stories and case studies.

The reason why we chose these two programmes to project is that it is easy for HEIs to apply for, since they combine educational material with research and innovation.

At the second part of the event, the audience was divided into three breakout rooms. The participants chose a break-out room during their registration:

  • Room 1: Horizon Europe Cluster 4 Projects
  • Room 2: Erasmus+ Collaborative Projects
  • Room 3: RAISE – Building a Unified EU Startup Ecosystem: Fostering Growth and Collaboration Across Europe