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Disability as an Innovation Driver for Smart Cities

Smart City. We are hearing a lot about it. This concept coming straight from the United States is starting to make its way into cities around the world.

But what is a smart city exactly? It is a city that gives its citizens all the benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to provide them with services adapted to their needs in real time. This technology can be found at different levels of society such as education, transportation, the environment, health or safety. The overall objective of the smart city is therefore to improve the quality of life for all citizens through new technologies.

Nice program! But what are the actual innovations behind this approach? And how can they improve the lives of the most vulnerable citizens? In an aging world where the number of people over the age of 60 is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030 and that already has more than 1 billion people living with disabilities, one may wonder how the smart city can respond to their needs. Can you imagine a smart city leaving behind 20% of the population? We can’t.

That’s why since 1993 Okeenea imagines solutions to create inclusive cities.

Indeed, cities have invested a lot of money in the physical accessibility. But installing equipment does not indicate where you are or where you are going to. You must bring safe roads but also information to the people. We have the capacity today to mix physical installations and digital solutions to bring real accessibility. It is vital for 15% of the population, very important for 40% of the population and useful for 100% of the population. 

That’s why we truly believe that inclusiveness is a major key of success. Today, we offer two main innovations to cities and actors who want to change the world:

ABEACON – abeacon is an accessible pedestrian signal which helps blind and visually impaired people to cross the street safely. This system is always put by two on each side of the crosswalk creating a sound corridor and providing crucial information for safety and orientation. 

We won the call for innovation for NEW YORK CITY department of transportation. Feedback from user testings is excellent: “The pilot test demonstrated that the use of aBeacons enhanced the confidence and understanding of the characteristics of the crosswalk. The added information that the aBeacon gives, particularly for unfamiliar intersections, is important.” Report from New York University – January 2020. 

EVELITY – Evelity consists in a wayfinding app for disabled people in complex venues such as subway stations, universities, malls, airports… Tailored user interfaces provide with the best route regarding the specific needs of each user. For instance the app is fully capable of providing step by step navigation for visually impaired people. 

>> We’re the finalist of New York City Transit Tech Lab to conduct a proof of concept for New York City Transit and Amtrak. As finalists we will have the opportunity to impact the largest public transit system in America.