Mark Tomkins is happy to be a Google pilot of sorts and collect and share data which will help make moving around easier and safer for other wheelchair users.
The town planner and disability consultant just hopes the wheelchair community in Wollongong also supports a pilot project creating maps for wheelchair users.
‘’It's like having a navigational system in your car except we've tailored it for wheelchair users, and we’ve then categorised wheelchair users to be able to select routes that are safe and achievable for them,’’ Mr Tomkins said.
The University of Wollongong is the first Australian university campus to pilot the project developed by Briometrix in partnership with the Digital Living Lab, an internet of things (IoT) initiative by UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility.
Using UOW’s Wollongong campus as a pilot study, Briometrix will translate wheelchair-user-generated data into navigation routes on its Navability App, which will show the best routes for wheelchair users based on their relative ability to propel a wheelchair.
Each time a user logs-on and makes a journey, the collected data will update the app to ensure it reflects any changes in the built environment.
This information will be supplied to the app via the cloud-based CogniCity solution, developed by SMART.
‘’The wheelchairs pilots, they’re essentially acting like Google cars,’’ Associate Professor Robert Gorkin said.
The wheelchairs pilots, they’re essentially acting like Google cars.Associate Professor Robert Gorkin
‘’If you look at a Google map, there’s a car that goes around with cameras to collect data.
‘’For wheelchair users, there are parameters that cameras just can’t measure, so our pilots have specialized tools to create the maps and profiles for routes depending on their ability.’’
It was after chatting with Prof Gorkin that Briometrix co-founder Natalie Verdon chose to map UOW’s Wollongong campus.
‘’For me, it’s about normalising the technology for the wheelchair users,’’ Ms Verdon said.
‘’No-one at the moment is using the wheelchair community to collect the data points to create these maps – these guys make it possible.
‘’The ideal situation for us would be for everyone in the wheelchair community to download the app and we’ll be downloading all the information and building the maps even faster.’’
Mr Tomkins added the maps produced by the app are colour-coded for effort–from Black (steep descent) to Purple (coasting), Green (easy level), Orange (incline) and Red (steep climb, may need assistance).
‘’What makes this app superior is that we are increasingly going digital,’’ he said.
‘’If I have the app, it could be as simple as the navigation devices we use every day.’’