A bold and technologically advanced project is in the works to make the bustling Diridon Station in San Jose, California easier to navigate for disabled persons and the elderly.
This will require real-time information to get the passenger to the right track, platform, train and the best spot to board the vehicle. The technology will inform the passenger when they can disembark, and also if they are on the train they are supposed to ride.
The IBM Research facility in Almaden, San Jose, California, along with researchers from UC Santa Cruz and the San Jose Valley Transport Authority (VTA) are designing and installing an Internet of Things-based system which uses smartphones, the cloud and other data devices to monitor Diridon Station.
The research is a unique public-private partnership between IBM, graduate students of UC Santa Cruz and the public sector. It can become a model for other transit terminals across the nation. The use of Diridon Station as a test-sight is fortunate as it is set to expand with the addition of a BART terminal and high-speed rail. This will make it even more challenging to navigate.
The station itself can be a daunting for new visitors, as it requires navigating through tunnels and stairs to get to multiple train tracks. It is easy to make a mistake and end up at the wrong platform. For those with disabilities, like people who are hard of hearing, have poor vision, or are of limited mobility, this would be an issue. As the general population grows older, authorities realized that this could become a bigger problem in the near future.
Eyes and Ears for the Elderly and Disabled
IBM, UCSC and the VTA aim to use high tech artificial intelligence solutions to make public transit easier to use. The project will make use of sensors and beacons to help those with special needs to get them on the right platform for their train ride. This will require real-time information to get the passenger to the right track, platform, train and the best spot to board the vehicle. The technology will inform the passenger when they can disembark, and also if they are on the train they are supposed to ride.
After one year of research, the team is about to deploy the beacons. These will allow the AI to estimate the distance a person is to a good place to board, and then provide cues to the user using the smartphone. This is a unique approach to using technology to make life simpler – not to mention safer – for the elderly and the disabled.
The funding was from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which awarded $992,000 for the three year project. Principal Investigator is Roberto Manduchi, UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering professor of computer engineering. The project will develop a system called RouteMe2, and the miniature transmitters (the beacons called iBeacons) will be placed inside the trains and buses, bus stops, train platforms and hubs. Other parts of the infrastructure include sensors in the smartphone, and the cloud where the data is sent and stored.
The data will be sent to the cloud where it will be picked up by the AI. Users or their family member or caretaker will register their trip in advance. This is similar to trip schedulers used in ride-sharing apps. The passengers can follow the app instructions to their destination or boarding area, while family members or an assistant can check their app to monitor the trip. Any unforeseen situation can be raised and sent to the family member.
This is a bold application of the public-private-partnership to provide greater accessibility to the disabled community. It shows how business and technology can make life better.