June 8, 2010

Mobile app for disabled passengers tested in Paris

Paris Metro passengers can navigate the transit system using the Mobile Transit Companion mobile application, which delivers live, customized data to passengers en route.

The application, developed to assist passengers with special needs, was created through a partnership between Toronto-based Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone (DMZ) and Sweden's Appear Networks. Ryerson's Digital Media Zone provides students with the opportunity to develop their digitally-based ideas into consumer products with help from mentors and industry.

Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) commuters can now download the free software and set up their user profile. Information is then automatically sent to their mobile phones according to their profile and contextual information.

Users can receive notifications such as the location of station elevators and Metro transfer points; facilities and nearby businesses; updated schedules for connecting trains; and availability of services at each station.

For blind and low-vision passengers, the Mobile Transit Companion uses a speech-enabled, gesture-driven user interface. For other user groups, including the elderly, deaf or hard of hearing, or passengers with reduced mobility, the application offers an intuitive and easy-to-use visual interface.

The Mobile Transit Companion's positioning function is integrated with a web-based monitoring service so that public transit staff can easily locate and assist passengers with special needs. The only existing social tracking application for public transit passengers, this monitoring service has the capability to be shared with friends and family.

Using the interface, the transit authority can message selected passengers, which is particularly helpful for deaf or hard-of-hearing passengers who can't hear announcements made over the public address system. Messages are communicated to each passenger according to the information on his in her profile, e.g.: the message will be interpreted from text to speech if s/he has indicated Low Vision.

The project was part of European research consortium developing an open-source middleware platform. The Mobile Transit Companion is currently being piloted on Android phones in 10 stations along Line 14 of the Paris Metro.

 

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