LIST leads project digitalising rural areas across Europe and beyond

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A major new project, reaching right across Europe and beyond, coordinated in the Grand Duchy by the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), has just launched with a focus on rural communities helping them with connectivity solutions and education through digitalisation solving issues they encounter in their daily lives and work.

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  • Dr Maria Rita Palattella

    Dr Maria Rita Palattella

It is known as COMMECT bringing “Community” and “Connectivity” together to bridge the digital divide and address the needs of rural communities with cost-effective and environmental-friendly connectivity solutions.

COMMECT is a Horizon Europe project and is a consortium of 20 partners: 12 from European Union countries and 8 from outside the EU including Turkey, Norway, and Serbia.

COMMECT takes a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to its objectives as it recognises each partner in their respective country face different sets of challenges. For example, in Luxembourg, there is a focus on viticulture as this is important to the country’s agricultural and economic sector, an area LIST already has experience in. The aim is to enhance previous approaches, and better detect and predict effects of climate changes by adding more connectivity, IoT (Internet of Things) devices and make use of satellite connectivity as the Grand Duchy side of the project will work with IBLA, SES, and LUXSENSE.

In other countries, different scenarios are being taken into consideration to match their needs. An example is in Norway, where forests are analysed to see how private 5G networks can be used to help the environment, create safety in the forest, increase value-creation of forest resources and preserve biodiversity.

In Denmark, the benefits of 5G and satellite backhaul powered from fossil-free energy sources, for the remote management of livestock transport in rural and remote areas, will be investigated.

In Turkey, olive trees are a focus of COMMECT as they are being affected by climate change. They are being monitored using IoT devices and mobile networks.

In Serbia, it is more about renewable energy solutions in natural areas. The country has large lake areas where the desire is to install solar panels collecting energy for an intelligent irrigation system and other agricultural use.

The COMMECT Project Coordinator at LIST, Dr Maria Rita Palattella stated, “We want to help these rural communities in becoming digitalised so they can also become more sustainable and resilient. We will design energy-efficient connectivity solutions, with the aim of contributing to climate change mitigation (for instance, by reducing CO2). At the same time the project addresses economic impacts, with the aim of increasing competitiveness of rural communities.”

Specialist partners in the consortium, coordinated from Luxembourg, will design several business models that lay out how if a farmer adopts a particular solution, they can expect to have a certain amount of income and may be able to increase production. On the other hand, if certain technologies are used a new strategy may be required whereby several farmers share the costs and use devices and technology together to minimise costs.

Dr Palattella outlined the different issues the project addresses. “We want to facilitate decision-making in the selection of the most appropriate internet connectivity, considering environmental impact, and social-economic impact in different scenarios. Added to that 5 living labs will be deployed, each addressing a different problem. The living labs will make sure we understand the real needs of farmers, forest workers, wine growers, and others to help them address the challenges they face”.

Interactive workshops are planned for the duration of the three-year project to collect feedback and educate stakeholders. These workshops will be important for cooperation and result sharing between technical and non-technical people.

COMMECT will strive to put the end-user first – and this objective itself will help disrupt the traditional approach of designing networks. It will develop innovative connectivity solutions that are not only well-designed from a technology viewpoint, but also tailored to the needs of end-users.

For more information visit the COMMECT project page on LIST.lu

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