Late last year Jason Jones and Ashley James-Kennedy happily became Google pilots of sorts and collected and shared data to help making moving around easier and safer for other wheelchair users.
Earlier this week they took it one step further and hit the streets of Wollongong in an effort to make the city a much more welcoming place for wheelchair users.
Mark Tomkins was also part of the volunteer wheelchair pilots, who were equipped with sensors to gather information for an accessibility map of the area.
The project developed by Briometrix follows a pilot study that has mapped the University of Wollongong campus and is a partnership between the university’s SMART Infrastructure Facility, Wollongong City Council and Briometrix.
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.
Briometrix co-founder Eckhard Kemmerer said 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.
“We are trying to look at the major transport areas, the entertainment areas and the tourist areas,” Mr Kemmerer said.
“This will help us understand which routes are most travelled by people in wheelchairs, and it will help wheelchair users choose the best route, depending on their fitness.”
The pilot project is funded with a $35,000 grant from FundAbility from Northcott, a not-for-profit disability service provider.
The wheelchair pilots will be essentially working like Google cars.Associate Professor Robert Gorkin
Project leader Associate Professor Robert Gorkin said the initiative was an excellent example of how the community is enhanced by emerging technology like the Internet of Things.
“The wheelchair pilots will be essentially working like Google cars,” he said.
“If you look at a Google map, there’s a car that goes around with cameras to collect data.
“Where other accessibility maps rely on topographical data, Briometrix technology evaluates the routes metre by metre, considering gradients, surface, camber, barriers and the effort required by wheelchair users – everything that affects the difficulty of a route for a wheelchair user.”
Dr Maryam Gharamani, from SMART DLL, will work with Prof Gorkin to help deliver the crowd-sourced accessibility maps to the community.
It’s expected the maps will be available for free online through the UOW-supported dashboard Vision Illawarra in the next few months.
Briometrix is also working with councils in Sydney and Shepparton, Victoria, to make similar maps.