You probably have not heard much about this city – it is certainly not as famous as Athens nor as much as a tourist draw as Mykonos or Santorini.
Trikala is a typical rural town of 60.000 people in the region of Thessaly, with a long tradition of agriculture and dairy farming.
In the past few years however, this small city in the middle of Greece has risen to the forefront of technological innovation, becoming renowned for its commitment to digital services aimed at improving the lives of its citizens.
Trikala was the very first city in Europe to test and implement driverless buses three years ago, gaining international recognition. Since then the municipality has also introduced smart lighting systems, smart parking and garbage collection alongside several other digital services.
Unsurprisingly, this positive attitude towards technology has started to attract many digital players, as we witnessed during the Trikala Innovation Challenge, a contest for start-ups supported by Vodafone Business.
The competition was organized by GiSeMi - the newly inaugurated local innovation hub – and was heavily focused on IoT.
Together with my most senior colleagues, I had the difficult job of evaluating and selecting three out of the 20 venture ideas presented. It was an incredibly difficult task, as all of the proposals were fantastic, full of innovative ideas and potential.
“I know what you recycle”
One of the winners was Reciget, founded by a team of young engineers of the National Polytechnic School of Athens.
They won the first prize in the Smart Cities category for their rather simple, but truly innovative, smart bin project. The recycling bins management system they created trains and offers incentives to citizens, encouraging them to recycle more.
Through their IoT platform, they can help increase recycling rates as well as gain access to valuable data about what citizens actually recycle, and what they don’t.
The Reciget team will spend a year in the GiSeMi innovation lab in Trikala, where its members will have the opportunity to expand, test and upgrade their project.
Through the eyes of the machine
Another great idea that stood out during the contest came from a similarly rural city: Tripoli, in the Peloponnese. Computer Engineer Vangelis Vlachos, founder of the ICT Lab for Machine vision & ΙoΤ, presented a new solution made of small, autonomous systems that rely on IoT and A.I.
These systems monitor critical infrastructure and process images in real-time, collecting valuable data that is then transferred to a web dashboard through Narrowband IoT.
These datasets can power new applications in sectors like transport – by analyzing traffic – and citizens’ safety, identifying wildfires, for instance.
We saw so much potential in this idea we have invited Vangelis to join us at the Vodafone Innovus HQ in Athens to work with our engineers for one year.
The last winning idea was engineered by sisters Athanasia, Ioanna and Zoe Karra. They are the fourth generation of entrepreneurs to run “KarMa Farm Karra - Mandraki” in Ellinokastro, near Trikala.
The sisters all studied in Athens but returned home to manage the family business.
At KarMa farm, they helped develop an IoT-based integrated digital system that monitors and controls the impact specific grazing has on the quality of the milk and dairy products.
What’s really striking is that this kind of dataset had never before been collected or analysed!
The aim of the project is to create dynamic maps that can certify the quality of KarMA’s dairy products, increasing their value by making them completely traceable to source.
The Karra sisters will spend a year at the Trikala innovation hub GiSeMi, working to finalize their project and integrate into the farm’s production line.
Ideas that can change the world
I was very impressed by the amazing projects the contestants presented at the event. I believe business ideas like the ones we saw have the potential to not only improve business outcomes for enterprises of all sizes, but also create a better future for society.
Vodafone will also support the three winners of the contest by providing services and guidance. On a personal note, I am really looking forward to seeing how these projects will develop into scalable business propositions.
At Vodafone Business in Greece, we hope to inspire young people to turn the exciting future we envision into a reality.
That is why we are so excited to be a part of the journey for these three start-ups as they progress on their journey towards a mature business which enables a better tomorrow.
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