Digital guide for the blind and people with impaired vision
New m4guide research project launched
Such smartphone navigation for the blind and people with impaired vision augments the existing information system for public transport in Berlin, serving a group of people who are really dependent on public transport. In addition, this travel information and guidance system can of course also be useful for older people. With the aid of m4guide it may also be possible in future for tourists to be guided to their chosen destination in unfamiliar city surroundings.
It is not always easy to find your own way quickly and safely in a city like Berlin with thousands of roads and crossings. For people with impaired vision who are not able to refer to a street map it is a real challenge. The m4guide research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) on the basis of a decision of the German Bundestag aims to provide a novel navigation system by means of which people with impaired vision will be able to use a smartphone to find their way to their destination safely, either on foot or using public transport. The project, which was launched in December, has a total budget of € 5.6 million. The eleven project partners began their work in January. IVU Traffic Technologies AG will primarily be contributing its expertise in database management, routing, and the development of user-interfaces.
The particular difficulty faced during the development of the m4guide is that such a system for people with impaired vision requires the exact registration of many more details, such as the width of pavements, steps, obstacles and street furniture, or road crossings. In view of the busy urban traffic, deviations of only a few metres could prove fatal. The new navigation system is intended to make it possible for people with impaired vision to find the way from the own front door to the nearest bus stop, as well as to move around by bus or by rail, including within stations or public buildings. Other highlights of the system will be the precise location within the radius of a long cane and the detailed integration of hazards and obstacles. The navigation is possible by means of voice instructions, acoustic signals and vibrations. For users with limited vision, map displays are provided with a zoom function. In the course of the project the satellite localisation will be refined in order to determine the location of the user up to a few handbreadths.
In Germany there are some 145,000 blind people and 1,200,000 with impaired vision. The number of elderly people with poor vision is constantly increasing. Almost all of them are dependent on public transport. There is not yet a guidance system for this user group offering uninterrupted navigation on pavements and in public areas (stations). The requirements of this group of people form the basis for the development of the m4guide because it places the highest demands on precision, real-time information, and exact guidance. Solutions for the group can be adapted for other users. The m4guide will be useable for everyone who has a commercial smartphone.
“Such smartphone navigation for the blind and people with impaired vision augments the existing information system for public transport in Berlin, serving a group of people who are really dependent on public transport,” explains Christian Gaebler, State Secretary for Transport and Environmental Affairs. “In addition, this travel information and guidance system can of course also be useful for older people. With the aid of m4guide it may also be possible in future for tourists to be guided to their chosen destination in unfamiliar city surroundings”.
The travel information and navigation system m4guide will be developed by IVU under the supervision of the Berlin Senate Department of Urban Development and Environmental Affairs together with the Deutsche Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband, Landkreis Soest, and four other partners from research, IT, and the transport sector. The project has a total budget of € 5.6 million. It will receive € 4 million from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) as part of the research initiative “From Door to Door – a mobility initiative for the public transport of the future”. The participating companies will contribute € 1.6 million. The new navigation system is to be operable in three years and will be integrated in the existing information systems of the VBB Berlin-Brandenburg transport association and Berlin’s BVG transport company.
IVU will be contributing primarily its many years of experience in routing and guidance as well as the navigation in station buildings. The data management system IVU.pool and the geographical information system IVU.locate will be employed.
IVU Traffic Technologies AG
Bundesallee 88, 12161 Berlin, Germany
Tel 49 30 85906-386
m4guide offers mobile (smartphone) multi-modal mobility (on foot and using public transport) in unfamiliar urban surroundings. m4guide offers uninterrupted guidance from door to door by means of voice messages, acoustic signals, vibration and maps with zoom function for users with partial sight. The m4guide represents an important contribution to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, offering equal access to all urban mobility services.
The project partners are: Beratungsgesellschaft für Leit-, Informations- und Computertechnik GmbH (BLIC), Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), Deutscher Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband e.V. (DBSV), Fichtenberg Oberschule Berlin, Fraunhofer Institut für Offene Kommunikationssysteme, FOKUS, HaCon Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH, IVU Traffic Technologies AG, Landkreis Soest, Regionalverkehr Ruhr-Lippe GmbH (RLG), Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, VBB Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH.
IVU Traffic Technologies AG has been working for more than thirty-five years with some 350 software engineers to ensure that transport in the world’s major cities operates reliably and on time. People and vehicles in expanding cities are continually on the move – a logistical challenge which calls for intelligent and reliable software systems. The standardised software products of the IVU.suite and tailor-made IT solutions are used to plan, optimise and control the scheduling of vehicle fleets and personnel. Other systems support the choice of branch locations or ensure that election results are determined correctly. IVU. Systems for vibrant cities.