Engineers win Inclusion & Empowerment World Summit Award with waytoB

Posted on: 28 November 2018

A smart tech solution that gives independence back to people living with an intellectual disability (ID), which has been developed by engineers from Trinity College Dublin, has won a highly prestigious World Summit Award. waytoB, which comprises a smartwatch and smartphone app that together take the difficulty out of wayfinding for people with ID, was one of five global winners within the Inclusion & Empowerment category.

waytoB was invented by Talita Holzer and Robbie Fryers — two recent graduates from Trinity College Dublin, who now work as research engineers within Trinity’s School of Engineering.

Talita Holzer said: “We are so proud to be joining this impressive list of diverse and creative solutions. We owe this incredible achievement to our users, many of whom have been involved in the design and development process since the very beginning. This allowed us to fully understand the problem, and get quick feedback on our ideas and prototypes, so we could quickly learn what worked and what didn’t.”

Robbie Fryers added: “Even as we have progressed through the shortlisting phases of the World Summit Awards, we have been taken aback by the responses we have received. Many future potential users have already reached out to us, reminding us of the impact waytoB will have in their lives. It is also helping to shine a light on a very real problem that many people are not aware exists.”

The World Summit Awards (WSA) present a global spectrum of change-making projects ranging from managing big data for tourism purposes to 3D printing organs, and from a job platform that focuses on female tech talent to empowering smallholder farms. Overall, there were 40 winners from 26 countries in 2018, and these winners were selected from over 400 nominations from 104 UN member states. waytoB’s success indicates that it was judged one of the world’s finest digital innovations with impact on society.

Focusing foremost on the content and the impact in their local communities, the WSA judges comprised international experts from all regions and fields to select the winners. The final jury phase concluded in an on-site, three-day meeting in Accra, Ghana, where 16 international high-level experts settled on the most powerful and content-rich solutions of 2018.

Chairman of the WSA, Peter A Bruck, said: Today we are living in a completely different environment – through the mobile revolution, through the emergence of the algorithmic age, data has become a capital as much as labour, land, money and machinery. Hunting for the next unicorn and better, faster, bigger technology fosters the digital divide, instead of mending it. Hence, it is more important than ever to evaluate what is excellent content that really offers solutions and impact. Qualitative, local content has become the key and permanent issue. WSA presents innovation that uses ICT for social connectivity. To connect for impact.”

Talita and Robbie will present their innovation and receive their award at the WSA Global Congress in Cascais, Portugal, in March, 2019. The agenda of the WSA Congress will be a compilation of interaction and inspiration, assembling workshops, business blind-dates and inspiring keynotes, bringing together the global and multi-stakeholder network of WSA.

About waytoB

In Ireland, the number of people recorded in Census 2011 as having an intellectual disability was more than 60,000, with estimates putting the number globally as high as 200 million. A major problem for this user group is finding their way without assistance. It prevents a large number of people from doing things on their own, even in adulthood, as navigation tools are not appropriate due to their complicated interfaces.

waytoB’s solution lets a connected partner pre-programme set routes on a smartphone or desktop, which allows the smartwatch to elegantly guide the wearer via turn by turn directions. This is possible due to a visual and haptic language co-developed by the researchers and the users. The person navigating only sees a highly simplified and intuitive interface and receives directions (arrows and icons associated with audio and vibration) based on their orientation, which means no map-reading is required.

The app also integrates walking instructions with public transport and allows a partner to live-track the user’s location, heart-rate and battery usage. If the user deviates from their path, or their heart-rate elevates to a certain level indicating stress or anxiety, the waytoB system will notify the connected partner. There is a panic button present on both the phone and the watch, which immediately establishes contact between the user and the partner via a phone call.

waytoB is being trialled in Ireland and in the UK with organisations that provide services for people with intellectual disabilities, such as travel training and support accessing employment opportunities. It is also being trialled at Hereward College, a further education college based in the UK, which provides specialist and residential facilities and educational opportunities for young people with a variety of physical sensory and cognitive disabilities.

Access, Research and Development Manager at Hereward College, Paul Doyle, said: Hereward believes that this technology, when used meaningfully and supported effectively, has a substantive role to play in helping students with learning difficulties acquire the freedom to travel independently and safely to their chosen destinations, be they social, education or employment-related.”

David Daillon is a service user at Stewarts Care Centre, who used waytoB for months as part of his daily routine. Sharing his experience using the app, he said: “I really enjoyed being out with waytoB, it helped me get to places I couldn’t go before. It told me which traffic light to cross on, which is usually confusing for me. I would recommend it to those friends who find it hard to get around Dublin.”

The team behind waytoB won the People’s Choice Award at the 2018 Tech4Good Awards, the Irish leg of the 2017 James Dyson Award, and the Universal Design Grand Challenge from the National Disability Authority in 2016 for their work.

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