23 results for “Technosphere”

Smart cities could give the visually impaired a new outlook on urban life

Drishty Sobnath and Ikram Ur Rehman
September 17th 2019

Travelling to work, meeting friends for a catch up or just doing some shopping are often taken for granted by people with no known disabilities. For the visually impaired, these seemingly simple things can be a serious challenge.

But imagine a city equipped with technology that enables the visually impaired to recognise people, places or even bank notes, helping them to live more independently whether indoors or in a public place. That’s the promise of so-called smart cities, which use …

The new Next Nature book is here!

NextNature.net
May 28th 2019

? For pictures of the book launch, head to this page.

We live in a world in which we control the biology of a tomato at such precision, you could think of it as a product of technology, instead of a product of nature. Think about it, from genetics to breeding; a simple tomato isn’t remotely as simple as you might think. Technological advances allow our daily ingredients to be grown bigger, faster and better than ever before.

Conversely, in …

Technosphere Weighs 30 Trillion Tons

Van Mensvoort
May 12th 2017
If humans would disappear from the face of the Earth today, we would still leave 30 trillion tons of mass in the geological record. Certainly, "we were here" is written all over.

Robo-Bee Pollinated a Japanese Lily

Nadine Roestenburg
February 16th 2017

A video of a robotic bee pollinating a flower (looking more like Loopin' Louie spinning off the board game and hitting a flower) recently caught our attention. What at first sight might look like a silly viral video, could be an important step in the survival of bees. To save us humans from a future without honey and pollinating crops by hand, we need to save the bees. These insect-sized drones could actually play a major role in their survival.…

There Are More People Flying in Airplanes right Now, than there were Alive on Earth in the Stone Age

Van Mensvoort
March 22nd 2016
Today there are on average there are some 8000 planes in the sky carrying at least half a million people. On average during the Stone Age there must have been less.

Technology Made us Human

Van Mensvoort
August 28th 2015
Buckle up for a cinematic espresso shot from performance philosopher and NNN ambassador Jason Silva.

Visualizing the World Economy

Van Mensvoort
August 27th 2015
This Is What $15.3 Trillion of World Trade Looks Like.

Ambient City

Van Mensvoort
March 31st 2015
How cities will function when there are more robots than people working in factories, everything is intelligently interlinked, autos drive autonomously and drones deliver the mail?

The Secret Service is Preparing for Drones

Yunus Emre Duyar
March 16th 2015
The U.S. Secret Service is conducting test drone flights over Washington, D.C.

Over 300 Sharks are Now on Twitter

Van Mensvoort
January 6th 2015
Recently 338 sharks in Western Australia subscribed to the microblogging service. They are now tweeting out where they are.
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Travelling to work, meeting friends for a catch up or just doing some shopping are often taken for granted by people with no known disabilities. For the visually impaired, these seemingly simple things can be a serious challenge.

But imagine a city equipped with technology that enables the visually impaired to recognise people, places or even bank notes, helping them to live more independently whether indoors or in a public place. That’s the promise of so-called smart cities, which use things like internet-connected devices and artificial intelligence to improve services and the quality of life for their residents.

For example, the visually impaired could hugely benefit from a smart city’s enhanced transport system. “Virtual Warsaw”, a smart city project in Poland’s busy capital, is based on cutting edge technologies and aims to provide a set of “eyes” to those who have visual problems.

The city has developed a network of beacon sensors to assist the visually impaired to move around independently. These are small, low-cost transmitters that can be fitted to buildings and send people real-time information about their surroundings to their phones via Bluetooth. This can include the location of building entrances, bus stops, or even empty seats on a bus or where to queue in municipal buildings.

In 2018, Dubai ran a pilot scheme involving an iPhone app that can convert written information in metro stations into audio instructions, helping users navigate from the entrance to the ticket machine, gate, platform and carriage.

Once travellers have arrived at their destination, smart cities can help them navigate public spaces. Simply providing better connectivity for smartphones is a good start, for example by fitting buildings with 5G-enabled small cells instead of relying on traditional masts for signal.

This would enable the visually impaired to make better use of smartphone apps such as Seeing AI and Blind Square, which can describe surroundings or give audio directions to users. Google is also developing a platform called Lookout, that uses a camera to help people identify money or recognise the colour of objects.

Better connected for real-time navigation. Via Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

But smart cities can go further with public technology. For example, they could provide automated information points with tactile maps or audio systems describing the surrounding location. If these included a camera that users can point at different buildings and other aspects of the environment, then image recognition, an application of artificial intelligence, could recognise these objects and describe them to the user.

Similarly, shopping malls could be equipped with product-recognition devices to allow shoppers to compare products in shops. These could come in the form of simple clips that can be added on top of any pair of glasses and can identify and describe a product to a user.

Smart buildings

Smart city technology can also help inside buildings. One existing example is voice-controlled home assistant technology such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home, which can already be used to operate locks, lights and appliances or add items to a shopping list. But we should also expect home automation to go further, with sensors used to open windows and close curtains in response to changing weather conditions, and even to help people find lost objects.

Smart cities will revolutionise how people live, communicate or shop, especially for visually impaired people. We are now starting to witness the emergence of smart cities such as in Dubai, Singapore, New York and Warsaw. However, the adoption of smart city technology is still in its infancy, which is why the European Union is investing up to €1 billion in supporting projects in around 300 cities.

A recent review by professional services firm PwC found that smart city development is expected to increase steadily around the world over the next seven years, creating a US$2.5 trillion market by 2025. Urban development is growing at the fastest rate in human history. Smart city technology can help to meet some of the expectations of urban development that are growing just as fast.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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? For pictures of the book launch, head to this page.

We live in a world in which we control the biology of a tomato at such precision, you could think of it as a product of technology, instead of a product of nature. Think about it, from genetics to breeding; a simple tomato isn’t remotely as simple as you might think. Technological advances allow our daily ingredients to be grown bigger, faster and better than ever before.

Conversely, in our world, technology (such as the internet or the financial markets) has grown so complex and omnipresent, though, that it’s developed a natural dynamism of its own, and we need to understand it better.

How natural is nature, really?

We seem to have entered a magical garden that may either take us by surprise and astonish us, or knock us down.

At Next Nature Network, it is our goal to share a richer understanding of nature, and strengthen the connections between the biosphere and the technosphere. We believe that our image of nature as static, balanced and harmonic is naive and up for reconsideration. Where technology and nature are traditionally seen as opposed, they now appear to merge or even trade places.

Nature, in the sense of trees, plants, animals, atoms, or climate, is getting increasingly controlled and governed by man. It has turned into some sort of cultural category. At the same time, products of culture, which we used to be in control of, tend to outgrow us more and more. These ‘natural powers’ shift to another field.

We must therefore aim to make sense of this world and invent a fitting vocabulary by which we can grasp the meaning of things, in order to ensure a liveable existence for the people who come after us by charting a path for the future that’s desirable for both humanity and for the planet as a whole.

We apply the term 'next nature' for this culturally emerged nature.

Forward to nature!

In Next Nature: How Technology Becomes Nature Koert van Mensvoort takes you on an epic exploration through the wonderful world of culturally emerged nature. It shows how the problematic disbalance between nature and technology not only obscures our current view on society, but simultanously hinders the future. The book offers a detailed read on the Next Nature philosophy, alongside timely examples and scientific insights.

Gradually, you'll find an entirely new worldview unfolding that is not only more realistic, but also infinitely creative, optimistic and humane. From wild software to genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers: Nature changes along with us!

Join us for the Dutch book launch on Tuesday 4 June at De Rode Hoed in Amsterdam. Pre-order your Dutch copy here. Note: We are currently working hard on the English translation of the book. Subscribe to our newsletter and we'll keep you in the know!

[post_title] => The new Next Nature book is here! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => next-nature-book [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-21 14:53:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-21 13:53:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=111422 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 73433 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 12:36:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 10:36:08 [post_content] => A multinational team of geologists made a rough estimate of the size of the physical structure of Earth’s technosphere - finding that its mass approximates to 30 trillion tons. That's a mass of more than 50 kilos for every square meter of the Earth's surface.The researchers define the physical technosphere "the summed material output of the contemporary human enterprise". This includes houses, factories and farms, but also cars, computers, smartphones, light bulbs, oil rigs, pens and CDs. Also the growing residue layer of waste material in landfills, spoil heaps, plastics in the oceans, space junk in orbit, as well as one trillion tonnes of human-created carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, are included in their evaluation.As a thought experiment, the geologists also tried to imagine what the technosphere would look like to future geologists. They describe how "technofossils" might survive into the future: "As with biological species, not all technofossils will be recognizable following the information loss associated with fossilization. Future fossilized books, for instance, will likely be rectangular carbonized masses classifiable by size and relative dimensions and subtle variations in surface texture; fragmentary details of the print information will only be rarely preserved, as are fragmentary details of DNA structure in some exceptionally preserved ancient fossils today".Mobile phones, they point out, may have good "fossilization potential". Additionally the team concludes the total mass of the current technosphere is "five orders of magnitude greater than the standing biomass of humans presently sustained by this construct", as the total sum of dry biomass for all humans alive on the planet is appraised at a mere 100 million tons.If humans would disappear from the face of the Earth today, we would still leave 30 trillion tons of mass in the geological record. Certainly, "we were here" is written all over.The research is published in the Anthropocene Review. [post_title] => Technosphere Weighs 30 Trillion Tons [post_excerpt] => If humans would disappear from the face of the Earth today, we would still leave 30 trillion tons of mass in the geological record. Certainly, "we were here" is written all over. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => technosphere-weighs-30-trillion-tons [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-14 12:13:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-14 10:13:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=73433/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 71563 [post_author] => 1091 [post_date] => 2017-02-16 16:14:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-16 15:14:19 [post_content] => A video of a robotic bee pollinating a flower (looking more like Loopin' Louie spinning off the board game and hitting a flower) recently caught our attention. What at first sight might look like a silly viral video, could be an important step in the survival of bees. To save us humans from a future without honey and pollinating crops by hand, we need to save the bees. These insect-sized drones could actually play a major role in their survival.Cyborg insects are nothing new, neither is the robo-bee. Researchers from Wyss Institute at Harvard have been working for years on the development of the next pollinators. But these paperclip-sized, wired robo-bees still need years of further development before they can transfer pollen from flower to flower. Time costs money.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tAdpFH5hwM[/youtube]Chemist Eijiro Miyako, who is working at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), has found a way to pollinate the Earth with robo-bees in a less expensive way. The researchers used a cheap, small (4 cm), manually controllable toy drone, attached horsehair to the bottom and covered it with a non-degradable sticky gel. The sticky gel was discovered by chance, as it was found in an uncapped bottle years after an experiment went wrong. By transferring pollen grains stuck to the sticky gel from one flower to another, the remote-controlled drone was able to pollinate a Japanese lily with success.As explained by Phys.org:"Although the work is still far from being used in the field, it is a creative first step to addressing a future with fewer bees. The goal would be to decrease the stress put on bee populations by commercialization so that they can do what robots can't - make honey - while the drones take over the demands of crop pollination".This robo-bee pilot needs some flight lessons, but Miyako’s team hopes this project will contribute to counter the problem of bee declines. While team Miyako in Japan is now working on the development of autonomous drones that require GPS, high-res cameras and AI to navigate robo-bees from flower to flower, it might be a good idea for Wyss and Miyako to cross-pollinate their projects and start working together. Because after seeing the Black Mirror episode ‘Hated in the Nation’, it would preferable to have lower-tech, bigger than paperclip-size robo-bees that are not buzzing around in the uncanny valley.Sources: Phys.orgNew Scientist. Image: New Scientist [post_title] => Robo-Bee Pollinated a Japanese Lily [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => robo-bee-pollinated-japanese-lilly [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-18 15:27:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-18 14:27:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=71563/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 62204 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2016-03-22 15:25:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-22 14:25:24 [post_content] => Imagine you were a caveman living in 70.000 BC and a visionary caveman friend would predict that in the far future: "People will be able to fly, and there will one day be more people flying above the surface of the Earth than there are people on it now". It would be an mind boggling caveman prediction. Still the numbers add up.Today there are on average 8.000 planes in the sky carrying over half a million people. Although at the end of the Stone Age there were already a few million of people roaming the planet, this period lasted 3.4 million years and there were less people.Researchers believe that around 70.000 BC the World population went down to roughly a thousand reproductive adults. One study says we hit as low as 40 "breeding pairs". If these numbers are correct there are today even more pilots in the sky than people alive at that time. More likely, there was a drastic dip and then 5.000 to 10.000 bedraggled Homo Sapiens struggled together in hunting and gathering for thousands of years until, in the late Stone Age, we humans began to recover, to eventually dominate not only the surface but also the skies of the Earth.Who knows, in the long run there will be more people living in the Galaxy than there are on Earth today. Indeed, it is a bold statement, although our friend the caveman would have thought the same 70.000 BC.Image via Flightradar24.com. [post_title] => There Are More People Flying in Airplanes right Now, than there were Alive on Earth in the Stone Age [post_excerpt] => Today there are on average there are some 8000 planes in the sky carrying at least half a million people. On average during the Stone Age there must have been less. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => people-flying-airplanes-right-now-people-alive-earth-stone-age [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-28 23:02:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-28 22:02:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=62204 [menu_order] => 318 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 56387 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2015-08-28 16:00:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-28 15:00:21 [post_content] => Buckle up for a cinematic espresso shot from performance philosopher and NNN ambassador Jason Silva. [post_title] => Technology Made us Human [post_excerpt] => Buckle up for a cinematic espresso shot from performance philosopher and NNN ambassador Jason Silva. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => technology-made-us-human [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-12 11:03:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-12 10:03:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=56387 [menu_order] => 562 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 56327 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2015-08-27 23:11:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-27 21:11:44 [post_content] => Ever wondered what what the $15.3 Trillion of World trade looks like? Researchers at Harvard Kennedy School now created an interactive “Globe of Economic Complexity,” that shows the intricate ecology of supply and demand among different regions using "clouds of confetti."[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Obuq_L2U4VU[/youtube]The interactive graph allows you to easily visualize the complex network of world trade. You can filter on various commodities, ranging from vegetables, to machines, to oil, and easily zoom into countries to learn that Saudi Arabia and Iran mainly export oil, China exports an amazing amount of machinery and electrical products, Germany is king of cars, while countries like South Korea, The Netherlands but also India are extremely  export a varied set of products, implying they have very healthy economies. As expected North Korea is pitch dark.[caption id="attachment_56339" align="alignnone" width="640"]North Korea export: pitch black. South Korea: extremely diversified. North Korea export: pitch black. South Korea: extremely diversified.[/caption][caption id="attachment_56342" align="alignnone" width="640"]South America's stars: Costa Rica exports fruit, while Trinidat and Tabago export a lot of oil. South America's highlight: Costa Rica exports fruit, Trinidat and Tabago export oil.[/caption][caption id="attachment_56344" align="alignnone" width="624"]Compare India's diverse upcoming economy with Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil. Compare Saudi Arabia's dependance on oil with India's diverse upcoming economy.[/caption]The visualization makes clear that no country can export everything, and that some industries such as machinery will generate more networks around the world as opposed to something like vegetables.The data for the project was generated with Harvard University’s Center for International Development’s (CID) 2012 world export data, which stems from the United Nations Comtrade database.According to the creators of the Globe, it not only shows where products are made and sent to, but can also be used to suggest products a country could begin manufacturing in order to fuel economic growth.Via Motherboard. [post_title] => Visualizing the World Economy [post_excerpt] => This Is What $15.3 Trillion of World Trade Looks Like. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => visualizing-the-world-economy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-08-30 13:22:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-08-30 11:22:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=56327 [menu_order] => 563 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44116 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2015-03-31 15:57:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-31 13:57:52 [post_content] => Today, 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas, a percentage that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050. Will the city eventually be the nextnatural habitat for humans, like the beehive is for bees?The forthcoming Ars Electronica investigates the ambient city theme, questioning how cities will function when there are more robots than people working in factories, everything is intelligently interlinked, autos drive autonomously and drones deliver the mail. [post_title] => Ambient City [post_excerpt] => How cities will function when there are more robots than people working in factories, everything is intelligently interlinked, autos drive autonomously and drones deliver the mail? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => ambient-city [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-30 22:03:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-30 20:03:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=44116 [menu_order] => 720 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 43754 [post_author] => 835 [post_date] => 2015-03-16 16:00:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-16 15:00:52 [post_content] => After suspicious drone flights over the Paris air space right after Charlie Hebdo shooting and a drunk government employee crashing a drone into the White House lawn, the Secret Service are preparing to defend against drones. Currently, they are conducting test drone flights over the U.S. capital in order to figure out ways to make them fall or redirect their trajectory.One of the biggest challenges for the Secret Service would be to detect a drone and then hack its system within seconds to make it ineffective. Many drones use common wireless technologies to establish connection, such as radio signals, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Blocking these systems in case of drone attack could also disrupt other lines of communication depending on these technologies.Jeremy Gillula, technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, explained that there are three effective methods to stop a drone. The first way is using radio signals to hack the drone and trick it into believing that its somewhere else. The second method is using "geo fence", which is a virtual fence that communicates to drones that a specific area is off-limits. The last measure is using a weapon or a net to catch it, much like hunting for a bird.The Secret Service did not give any further details about the project other than making a public statement about the implementation of test flights. The press release was distributed to avoid panic in the wake of drones spotted over Paris.For the moment we can do our part sharing the Drone Survival Guide!Story via Associated Press, image via Gizmodo [post_title] => The Secret Service is Preparing for Drones [post_excerpt] => The U.S. Secret Service is conducting test drone flights over Washington, D.C. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-secret-service-is-preparing-for-drones [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-14 19:19:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-14 18:19:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=43754 [menu_order] => 736 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 42329 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2015-01-06 18:24:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-01-06 17:24:26 [post_content] => Twitter is steadily growing its user base. Recently 338 sharks in Western Australia subscribed to the microblogging service. They are now tweeting out where they are.Australian researchers have tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters that monitor where the animals swim. When a tagged shark is about half a mile away from a beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed. The tweet notes the shark's size, breed and approximate location.Since 2011, Australia has had more fatal shark attacks than any other country; there have been six over the past two years. The tagging system alerts beachgoers far quicker than traditional warnings, says Chris Peck, operations manager of Surf Life Saving Western Australia. "Now it's instant information," he tells Sky News, "and really people don't have an excuse to say we're not getting the information. It's about whether you are searching for it and finding it."The tags will also be monitored by scientists studying the sharks. Researchers have tagged great whites, whaler sharks and tiger sharks.Via NPR, via Skynews. Image via Hashslush. [post_title] => Over 300 Sharks are Now on Twitter [post_excerpt] => Recently 338 sharks in Western Australia subscribed to the microblogging service. They are now tweeting out where they are. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => over-300-sharks-are-now-on-twitter [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-12 11:06:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-12 10:06:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=42329 [menu_order] => 806 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 120165 [post_author] => 2205 [post_date] => 2019-09-17 17:13:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-17 16:13:53 [post_content] =>

Travelling to work, meeting friends for a catch up or just doing some shopping are often taken for granted by people with no known disabilities. For the visually impaired, these seemingly simple things can be a serious challenge.

But imagine a city equipped with technology that enables the visually impaired to recognise people, places or even bank notes, helping them to live more independently whether indoors or in a public place. That’s the promise of so-called smart cities, which use things like internet-connected devices and artificial intelligence to improve services and the quality of life for their residents.

For example, the visually impaired could hugely benefit from a smart city’s enhanced transport system. “Virtual Warsaw”, a smart city project in Poland’s busy capital, is based on cutting edge technologies and aims to provide a set of “eyes” to those who have visual problems.

The city has developed a network of beacon sensors to assist the visually impaired to move around independently. These are small, low-cost transmitters that can be fitted to buildings and send people real-time information about their surroundings to their phones via Bluetooth. This can include the location of building entrances, bus stops, or even empty seats on a bus or where to queue in municipal buildings.

In 2018, Dubai ran a pilot scheme involving an iPhone app that can convert written information in metro stations into audio instructions, helping users navigate from the entrance to the ticket machine, gate, platform and carriage.

Once travellers have arrived at their destination, smart cities can help them navigate public spaces. Simply providing better connectivity for smartphones is a good start, for example by fitting buildings with 5G-enabled small cells instead of relying on traditional masts for signal.

This would enable the visually impaired to make better use of smartphone apps such as Seeing AI and Blind Square, which can describe surroundings or give audio directions to users. Google is also developing a platform called Lookout, that uses a camera to help people identify money or recognise the colour of objects.

Better connected for real-time navigation. Via Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

But smart cities can go further with public technology. For example, they could provide automated information points with tactile maps or audio systems describing the surrounding location. If these included a camera that users can point at different buildings and other aspects of the environment, then image recognition, an application of artificial intelligence, could recognise these objects and describe them to the user.

Similarly, shopping malls could be equipped with product-recognition devices to allow shoppers to compare products in shops. These could come in the form of simple clips that can be added on top of any pair of glasses and can identify and describe a product to a user.

Smart buildings

Smart city technology can also help inside buildings. One existing example is voice-controlled home assistant technology such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home, which can already be used to operate locks, lights and appliances or add items to a shopping list. But we should also expect home automation to go further, with sensors used to open windows and close curtains in response to changing weather conditions, and even to help people find lost objects.

Smart cities will revolutionise how people live, communicate or shop, especially for visually impaired people. We are now starting to witness the emergence of smart cities such as in Dubai, Singapore, New York and Warsaw. However, the adoption of smart city technology is still in its infancy, which is why the European Union is investing up to €1 billion in supporting projects in around 300 cities.

A recent review by professional services firm PwC found that smart city development is expected to increase steadily around the world over the next seven years, creating a US$2.5 trillion market by 2025. Urban development is growing at the fastest rate in human history. Smart city technology can help to meet some of the expectations of urban development that are growing just as fast.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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