A new patented technology from Intelligent Material Solutions, Inc. is designed to help pedestrians who are blind and visually impaired navigate busy sidewalks and avoid sidewalk hazards. The sensor tech uses a cooperative guidance system to determine the pedestrians’ precise geolocation and guide them to public transportation, retail entrances, sidewalk exits and other locations.
How does it work?
Rare-earth crystals, which convert energy and provide digital information, are embedded in paint or thermoplastics. Sensors mounted or integrated with a cane can sense the crystals, gathering geolocation feedback.
Paired with a smart device, the system provides enhanced situational awareness for the user.
The crystal technology, which is called “Intelligent Material,” is defined on the organization’s website as “highly-tuneable physical, optical, and magnetic crystals that exhibit up- and down-converting luminescent properties. The patented crystals exhibit fine tuneable energy conversions, with unique emission and absorption spectra. Through IMS’ methods the crystals can be grown to any shape or size (3nm-50,000nm) and will naturally arrange themselves.”
What are the benefits of this technology?
Benefits include straight-line guidance at intersections and identification of transit stops. The system is also viable indoors for guidance in department stores and shopping malls, according to a statement about the technology.
While smartphone GPS based aid may seem like an effective guidance system, current smartphone-enabled GPS worsens around trees and structures such as bridges and buildings, according to GPS.gov.
The crystals are inert and can be used for a variety of applications including, life science and diagnostics, defence, authentication, transportation, spectroscopy and more.
Where has the crystal technology been tested?
To fine tune and test the technology in real life scenarios, Intelligent Material Solutions is working with partners including the City of Tampa, Florida, Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, Ohio State University, Ohio State School for the Blind, Portland State University and the University of British Columbia.
Demonstrations were conducted at Portland State University and the University of British Columbia to test the effectiveness of the paint and cane while simultaneously receiving feedback from volunteers. The organization has also had trials in Tampa.
What was the feedback from those who tested it?
So far, the sensor technology had received a positive reception by those who’ve tested it.
“Our BVI volunteers who participated in trials in Portland and Vancouver BC were quite excited about the potential assistance that the I-Paint and cane system could provide them,” said Jonathan Fink, director of Portland State University’s Digital City Testbed Center. “We’re just at the early stages of exploring all of the ways this technology might be used to help people navigate through complex urban environments.”
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Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.
Australian Chief Minister Award winner
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