Recent developments suggest sensors as the eyes of tomorrow

Technology helps us in many ways. It is known to make our life more comfortable, but it also can be a real game changer for some people. A lot of effort is given lately in order to make a difference in the life of the visually impaired.

There is an estimated number of over 2.2 billion visually impaired people, and all of them could use a little help in order to function properly and independently.

An example of such technology is a new walking stick device called “WeWALK”. The company was founded in 2017, and the device became available for purchase in 2019.  WeWALK detects obstacles above chest level with ultrasonic sensor and warns the person with vibration if needed. The device connects to Smart Phones, and when paired with WeWALK application, a person can navigate without directly using his phone.

Another example is an app developed by google that just became available (March 2019) for Pixel devices. The platform is called Lookout, and it uses a camera to help people identify money or recognize the color of objects.

But the technology is not limited for devices only, and the use of cameras and sensors can be implemented on a bigger scale in smart cities. A project in Warsaw, Poland, is yet another case of integrating sensor technology in different ways. “Virtual Warsaw” is virtual smart city based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The smart city aims to provide “sight” to the 40,000 Warsaw residents with visual impairment.

The technology used is based on of beacon sensors. Those are small, always-on, transmitters, which use Bluetooth Low Energy technology to broadcast signals to nearby portable devices (tablets and smartphones). The system allows visually impaired individuals the ability to navigate the city outside, as well as inside buildings, even when no mobile signal is available. The action range of the sensor is around 90 meters.

This project has two major advantages. Firstly, it’s increasing the well-being of those using Virtual Warsaw. Secondly, it’s improving the efficiency of government, as residents with improved independence require fewer city services. An indirect benefit is that the government has learned through this process that user-centered design can be highly successful, resulting in this model spreading to other government offices.

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