Indoor navigation, outdoor navigation or simply… navigation?

Traditional navigation tools

Traditional navigation tools

I already posted an article some time ago about WiFi and its potentials on providing the next indoor navigation system. The truth is that WiFi is just one of a number of different solutions presented for indoor navigation. There are also many more. For example, Sam’s Club mobile app is a mobile app that provides indoor navigation to specific items and shops in some selected American shopping malls since the beginning of 2011. Similarly, the FastMall app provides navigation for shopping malls in 31 countries using interactive maps that you download and use. In contrast to traditional mobile shopping and mapping apps, FastMall is based on MapOS platform that provides turn-by-turn walking directions for any venue without requiring a global positioning system (GPS), WIFI connection, or an Internet signal. Other applications in the same family are Meijer Find It and Micello Maps. Read the rest of this entry »

Thank you wallet!

Mobile phone used as wallet

Mobile phone used as wallet

I started this blog some months ago looking at the shopping process and how smart shelves could become a helpful tool for customers with disabilities instead of just helping a company with their logistics and storage management. The shopping experience however doesn’t stop in the shelves. There are a number of other steps and today I am looking at the payment.

Usually customers in a large shop are going through the checkouts where the paying process takes place either in cash or using a credit card. In many cases, stores are also issuing loyalty cards to customers giving them special offers in exchange of the information they are providing when using the card. The latest trend in payment is mobile payment. Major players in the mobile computing domain have shown interest in the area of mobile payments with Google entering the competition by introducing Google wallet. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m not sick… I just want to enjoy the view from my window!

Elderly woman looking from a window

Elderly woman looking from a window

Today, I’m going to briefly discuss the potential benefits from exploring affective computing technologies in smart homes and smart environments in general especially when it comes to providing health and social services. Smart home technologies today are mostly accompanied with some potential problems annoying residents of smart homes with false alarms and unwanted reactions. When an elderly or person with disability lives in a smart home one would expect it to be that smart home to recognise what situation is really a potential danger or threat to them and act accordingly. Sensor technologies have advanced a lot in the direction of detecting potential dangers and threats but there is one thing they still cannot control. Human behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »

Will WiFi be the best solution for indoor navigation?

Google Maps indoor navigation

Google Maps indoor navigation

I am returning to mobility problems in this post and especially for indoor environements. One of the most pressing issues for mobility impaired and vision impaired persons is the issue of getting around in unknown indoor environments. Getting lost, disoriented and even getting “trapped” in some circumstances can be quite a stressful situation for them.

Lately, a number of positioning techniques have been developed for indoor environments (e.g., the methods based on Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN), Bluetooth, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Ultra Wideband (UWB), infrared and ultrasound, etc.). Among these techniques, the approach on the basis of exploiting 802.11 WLAN (Wi-Fi) is attractive, which is expected to yield a cost-effective and easy-accessible solution. All modern smartphones have Wi-Fi built in, and wireless networks are common enough in indoor spaces that an app could easily scan for known access points and calculate your position using trilateration . This is currently enabled in open operating systems of smart phones, e.g. in Android ones. As an alternative, there are some Wi-Fi installations in buildings, such as the ones based on Cisco MSE that can determine the location of any wireless device in the building. The Wi-Fi access points receive the Wi-Fi signals created by the mobile phone and then estimate its position via trilateration. Read the rest of this entry »

How far are we from having robots as assistive devices?

PR2 robot from Willow Garage

PR2 robot from Willow Garage (source:

One of the most interesting technologies emerging in the area of consuming services has to do with robotics. Currently, there are a number of cases where robots are used to serve people in specific situations. Such an example is a company based in South Korea named KIST has led the development of a humanoid teaching robot called Erki, which has been under trial for more than a year now as an assistant in primary school teaching. Using robots as assistants in public places can be quite challenging. There are a number of issues to take under account apart from the interface and the communication of the robot with humans. For example, how will the robot operate in a situation where a group of students try to vandalize it, what happens when a part of the robot breaks down, how often and how long does it need to be recharged? Read the rest of this entry »

Make AT not war!


The title might seem a bit strange but this post has to do with… war. Maybe not war itself but military in general.

It’s been years now that the military all over the world tries to make the most out of soldiers supporting them with exoskeletons. In the US for example the Berkley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) developed by UC Berkley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory Homayoon Kazerooni aims to “create an exoskeleton that combines a human control system with robotic muscle”. The project was funded by DARPA and in 2004 and at that time it was the most advanced exoskeleton. UC Berkley is also behind of another newer military exoskeletons as well titled Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC). HULC incorporates features from two other models of Berkley Robotics the ExoHiker and ExoClimber which were designed for carrying heavy loads during long missions and climbing stairs and steep slopes rapidly. Another DARPA funded project was the Sarcos exoskeleton which recently was improved by Raytheon to a newer stronger faster and better model titled XOS2. This exoskeleton, much like the Berkeley suit, works much like a human nervous system. A complex set of sensors act as nerves and hydraulics act as muscles.

The same lab has recently presented a new exoskeleton system called eLEGS aiming to help paraplegics and those with mobility disorder to stand and walk. eLEGS was selected as number 2 of the 10 Most significant Gadgets of 2010 by WIRED magazine. Read the rest of this entry »

My grandma and her smart home.

Elderly woman using a tablet

Elderly woman using a tablet

Well, I wish that my grandma was living in a smart home but she doesn’t and this post is going to briefly discuss some of the challenges why smart homes for health services for elderly are not yet an everyday reality and what needs to be done to get there.

An area with interesting results in monitoring services is this of smart homes. In the past technologies for smart homes meant that a set of sensor would have to be wired into the house. This installation was a problem since it meant drilling holes into walls, Read the rest of this entry »

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