Innovation That Matters

Dani Caverzaschi at the Arc de Triomphe | Photo source Business Wire

Improving the lives of wheelchair users through technology

Computing & Tech

A new initiative is developing a navigation system for wheelchair users, as well as real-time data analytics for wheelchair athletes

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Spotted: In partnership with international wheelchair tennis player Dani Caverzaschi, global electronics company Arrow Electronics has launched a new project that aims to develop technology solutions that improve the lives of those with limited mobility. Called the Data Analytics & Network Innovation (DANI) project, the initiative is initially focusing on two solutions: a navigation system tailored to the needs of wheelchair users, and data analytics for wheelchair athletes.

The navigation system—dubbed WheelWay—will let wheelchair users navigate through cities using insights from ‘live’ data. Speaking to Springwise at ChangeNOW 2022, Joe Verrangia, Arrow’s global director of corporate social responsibility, outlined the necessity of a navigation system specifically tailored to wheelchair users’ needs. “The requirements and needs of someone in a wheelchair turn out to be a lot different in the fine details,” he explains.

For example, tourist locations such as the Arc de Triomphe are notorious for being exceptionally busy at peak times, and this is particularly problematic for wheelchair users. Instead of going through such a location, WheelWay may take a user further away in geographic terms in order to provide them with a smoother and safer route. Beyond this, Verrangia highlights that, “For every day getting around the neighbourhood, there are streets that, if you are in a wheelchair, you would prefer not to take because they have cobblestones.” And a wheelchair user also needs to know if there are additional obstacles—such as bins out for collection—in a given street on a given day. Scenarios such as these make real-time data extremely important for wheelchair users seeking the best route to their destination – in Verrangia’s words, it takes the “trial and error” out of getting around.

DataRally, the second solution the DANI project is developing, utilises sensors attached to Caverzaschi’s wheelchair, tennis racquet, and a wearable device to collect and analyse real-time data on performance. The analytics system is a first for disabled sport, and Verrangia again highlights the importance of a tailored system for wheelchair users. “A wheelchair is different from your feet, it’s a different motion, it’s a different cadence, it’s different angles,” he explains. At the top level of sport the margins are extremely fine, and effective analytics can make all the difference between a good player and a great player.

Other innovations spotted by Springwise that make life easier for those living with disabilities include a plugin that makes it easier for booking agencies to cater for travellers with disabilities, a haptic armband for those with sensorial disabilities, and a platform that lets employees with disabilities share what it is like to work at a particular workplace.

Written By: Matthew Hempstead



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