Crossing The Digital Divide: Outbarriers Creates Apps for All

Dec 23, 2015Industry

Outbarriers, FIWARE Smart Society Challenge Award winners in 2014, have now launched an app aimed at supporting blind and visually impaired travelers and residents explore a city. Lauded as a “TripAdvisor for the blind”, the first app includes 40 essential venues in Granada, Spain.

The Alhambra and Granada was the most visited tourist destination in Spain in 2014, making this a key location for providing accessible tourist information for all visitors. Using FIWARE technologies and startup support, the app is able to provide contextual visitor information to travelers who are blind or visually impaired.

Outbarriers uses beacon-like technology at each of the forty venues so that as visitors approach the venue, their app alerts them that they are close to a site of interest and provides specific information, such as when to watch for a step into the venue, and where the toilets are located.
Local community members and other tourists are also encouraged to share their local knowledge and are able to add realtime information such as where there are potholes, temporary closures, or other specific accessibility issues that might need to be communicated to app users.

While the app documents 40 venues so far, an agreement between the Outbarriers app team and the 300+ members of the local business association means there is an ongoing commitment to work together and extend the app directory in future.

Outbarriers is an early success story of the approach FIWARE has taken to encourage app developers and civic tech projects to provide a new generation of services and products. Initially, Outbarriers was the third-place winner of the FIWARE Smart City Challenge in October 2014. The concept was tested with blind people and their feedback was included in the initial app design.

Outbarriers was then selected to participate in the FI-C3 FIWARE Accelerator Programme of the European Commission in September 2015. Funding and business model support from this accelerator enabled the app to reach the production stage release that has now been achieved.

Outbarriers has used FIWARE technologies since the challenge carried out in October 2014. The backend is hosted on FIWARE Cloud Lab, and uses the Orion GE as the system's backbone.

“Beacons are dumb and they only emit an universal unique ID,” explained Chema Robles, from Outbarriers. “So Orion is responsible for providing the right message depending on the context. We are also integrating PoI Proxy SE, a plug & play software component which works as an information aggregator about points of interest, which provides great added value and improves the user experience. In the latest beta of Orion, they have included an important feature, PubSub using WebSockets. Thanks to this important improvement, we will be able to easily connect volunteers with blind people, which is our the next milestone for Outbarriers.”

“Outbarriers is an excellent example of how FIWARE is being used to make a real difference to our cities and the way we move through and live in them,” said FIWARE Chief Architect, Juan José Hierro. “With the FIWARE platform of open APIs, our accelerator programs and partnerships with business leaders and academics, we are bringing a new generation of app developers into contact with cities and the business and technical expertise they need to make successful, production-ready applications.”

Related articles