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Inclusive Smart City: An Exploratory Study


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Smart City Projects are getting more and more attention from the academy, industry and government in a global scale. We investigate some problems People with Disabilities (PwD) face in the urban space; we also observed some improvements that assistive technology should have in order to assure autonomy and independency to each and every citizen. We walked along 1 km in the downtown area of São Paulo taking pictures and recorded a range of difficulties that impaired persons, elderly people, pregnant women and so forth can have while trying to orient themselves in metropolises. The results of this observation are the principles of a broader view of Smart Cities: Inclusive Smart Cities.
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Inclusive Smart City: An Exploratory Study
João Soares de Oliveira Neto
and Sergio Takeo Kofuji
Department of Technological and Exact Sciences (CETEC),
University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB),
Av. Rui Barbosa, 710, Cruz das Almas, BA zip 44380-000, Brazil
LSI - School of Engineering/Escola Politécnica, University of São Paulo,
Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto, 380 Butantã,
São Paulo, SP zip 05508-010, Brazil
Abstract. Smart City Projects are getting more and more attention from the
academy, industry and government in a global scale. We investigate some
problems People with Disabilities (PwD) face in the urban space; we also
observed some improvements that assistive technology should have in order to
assure autonomy and independency to each and every citizen. We walked along
1 km in the downtown area of São Paulo taking pictures and recorded a range of
difculties that impaired persons, elderly people, pregnant women and so forth
can have while trying to orient themselves in metropolises. The results of this
observation are the principles of a broader view of Smart Cities: Inclusive Smart
Keywords: Inclusive smart cities Accessibility Assistive technology
Smart cities People with disabilities
1 Introduction
Technology has been strongly perceived as a key element in the daily life of con-
temporary cities. In recent years, municipalities have invested in Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) solutions in order to increase the efciency and
productivity of several local services/systems such as transport, communication,
water, business, city governance and others [1]. The offer of such services has trans-
formed the way people interact with each other, with institutions and with the public
space namely, the city.
After the rise of several Smart City initiatives in different parts of the globe [25],
the central point of this kind of initiatives has progressively changed to considering the
role that citizens must play in a Smart City. Even considering this new approach, it is
rare to nd academic research and industry products that deal with accessibility issues,
as is the employment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to help
persons with disabilities in the urban space. To be considered smart, a city must
reinforce the participations of everyone recognizing the diversity of citizens, struggle
against the segregation of minorities, and try, as much as possible, to eliminate, not
only physical but also digital, barriers. That is what we call Inclusive Smart City.
©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016
M. Antona and C. Stephanidis (Eds.): UAHCI 2016, Part II, LNCS 9738, pp. 456465, 2016.
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-40244-4_44
This is an exploratory study on the challenges that people with disabilities face
when they need to interact with the urban space and on how universal access and
technology and can help them to move safely through and to better explore the city.
Our main objectives are: (i) observing the urban space looking for opportunities make
the urban space decipherable to PwD; (ii) looking at already installed assistive tech-
nology tools in the urban space trying to nd opportunities to maximize their usability;
and (iii) formulating some of the seminal principles of Inclusive Smart Cities.
This paper is organized as follows. First, we briey discuss denitions and main
features of Smart City projects. Then, we point out some aspects of accessibility in the
urban space and the importance of assuring independence and autonomy to every
citizen living in cities. Section 4describes the methodology of our study and presents
some relevant pictures and notes taken during the observation of the selected neigh-
borhood. The ndings are presented in Sect. 5as well as some of the seminal principles
of the Inclusive Smart City approach. Finally, Sect. 6presents our conclusions.
2 Smart Cities
Finding a universal denition for the term Smart Cityis not a trivial task. This is a
widely multidisciplinary subject. Therefore, different elds will conceive different
denitions based on each different point-of-view and focusing in one or more particular
aspects. [6] states that Smart Cityis not a static concept. It is rather a process no
end point -, a series of steps that will make the city more livable, resilient and ready to
deal with new challenges. However, [6] underlines some aspects, which are strongly
information-driven, which can better delineate some elements that Smart City projects
should consider:
A modern digital infrastructure to provide access to useful data enabling citizens to
access the information they need, when and where they need it;
Service delivery must be citizen-centered, meaning that citizensneeds must be in
the forefront. City-administrators must collaborate with each other and share the
information management in order to provide a coherent service and a consolidated
view of data that, most of time, is spread over a multiplicity of silos;
An intelligent physical infrastructure (computers, sensors and other Internet of
Things components) to collect and to transport data supplying services and enabling
those services to perform their tasks;
An openness to learn from others and to experiment with new approaches and new
business models; and
Transparency of outcomes/performance to feedback citizens/ enterprises with data
collected from the city and to enable citizens to compare and to challenge
For the purpose of better management and control, urban systems are grouped in
layers: natural environment (resources, environment, topography); infrastructure
(utilities, buildings, roads); resources (minerals, oil, air); services (building services,
transport, water, power); and social systems (people, policy, culture, commerce) [7].
Instrumenting cities with sensors and actuators allows citizens and city-administrators
Inclusive Smart City: An Exploratory Study 457
to access real time information on air quality conditions, trafc jams, natural disasters
and emergency situations, health campaigns, job opportunities and so on.
However, the gain acquired with better transactions between citizens and local
governments, as well as a better relationship between citizens and (public and
non-public) service providers are not or, at least, should not be the major outcomes
of Smart Cities projects [8,9]. Since the context of Smart City projects is the city as a
whole, such projects can mitigate the segregation of citizens regarding information
access once the users of Smart City initiatives form, by denition, the wide variety of
citizens living in the city.
3 Accessibility and the Urban Spaces
One of the key issues of contemporary societies, accessibility has brought together
national and international organisms, governments and social movements around the
needs of persons with disabilities. Concisely, the design (or redesign) of products,
devices, services and environments [10] means a wide range of advantages to PwD: the
ability to access - products, places, information, systems and so on that were only
previously accessible to people without disabilities. Assistive technology is mostly
developed making use of Universal Design principles, in order to guarantee access to
the widest possible range of abilities. Designing taking into account accessibility
principles is designing for everyone.
The United Nations emphasize in their Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities that accessibility has to enable persons with disabilities to live indepen-
dently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate
measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to
the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications,
including information and communication technologies and systems, and to other
facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas
[11]. This right to access concerns the physical layer (building, roads, and other indoor
and outdoor facilities), such as to the digital layer (information, communications and
other services, including electronic services and emergency services).
Cities continue to be one of the greatest obstacles for PwD: wheelchair users must
deal with potholes; impairedhearing persons must count mostly on their vision to
compensate for the lack of sound; people with limited walking abilities have to move
over sidewalks with changes in level; visually impaired have do deal with the lack of
appropriate signs regarding places and objects. Specic laws and governmental regu-
lations have treated part of these problems associated to the physical infrastructure of
the urban space. In Brazil, for instance, number of municipalities have made it
mandatory to adapt sidewalks equipping them with tactile oor indicators; buildings
must be readapted with ramps, curb ramps and elevators even old buildings are
motivated to be retrotted; parking lots must be reserved for elderly people and PwD;
public spaces restrooms must t PwD needs; buses must provide platform lifts, etc. As
expected, those changes take time, but there have been advances and progress.
When the focus moves to the digital layer of the urban tissue (applications, systems,
ICT services and electronic services), there is still a particular absence of digital
458 J.S. de Oliveira Neto and S.T. Kofuji
services oriented to all diversity of citizens living in a city (including PwD, elderly
persons, children, pregnant women, foreign people that do not speak the local language
etc.). When discussing Smart City initiatives, accessibility and assistive technology, we
rarely nd options of services. Most applications in this eld (route tracers, maps,
emergency systems, sharing economy apps, ride-sharing programs, point of interest
maps, bus tracker apps, smart parking and others) are not at all capable to interact
properly in a non-excluding manner. Public administrators have more and more pro-
vided free Wi-Fi zones in squares and public buildings, but unfortunately, most PwD
are not able to fully benet from this service.
As most of our activities are becoming digital, providing digital services in an
inclusive manner is to allow every citizen to occupy a place in a digital society and in a
moving democracy era, potentially assuring the mitigation of the digital divide caused
by the lack of full access to both urban physical and digital layers.
4 Methodology
This is a qualitative and exploratory research once the problem cannot be completely
envisaged; it has not been clearly dened and has to be discovered[12]. One of the
purposes of our research is to gain familiarity with the relationship between accessi-
bility, urban spaces and Smart Cities, as background. Also, the exploratory approach
helped us to gain experience in the difculties faced by PwD in their daily routine when
moving along streets, avenues, buildings, squares and other urban equipment. As the
research subject is still new namely, how Smart City initiatives could be inclusive
the exploratory research allowed us to learn while theories are still being formulated.
With 11.8 millions inhabitants, São Paulo Fig. 1(a) - is a representative example
of a contemporary megalopolis. We have chosen a 1-km route in São Paulo downtown
Fig. 1. Map of São Paulo and studied area in São Paulo downtown
Inclusive Smart City: An Exploratory Study 459
depicted in Fig. 1(b) in order to
explore (i) what kind of information
is signed in a very confused area of a
huge city, (ii) what kind of assistive
technologies are found in the urban
space, and (iii) opportunities for
employing technology to adapt the
urban digital layer so that the urban
space can be more inclusive.
While walking, we have taken
some pictures of obstacles and
potential opportunities for developing
assistive technology in the urban
space; we also have written down
some descriptive notes. The result of
this documentation process can be
seen in the following Figs. 2,3,4,5,
6,7,8and 9.
Fig. 2. Overlapped information layers Urban land-
scape is made by layers of sensorial information
(sight and hearing most of the time). These layers
are overlapped in perspective.
Fig. 3. Some very important information is not accessible to every citizen Extremely important
information shown in the city is mostly textual. PwD, blind people, elderly persons and foreign
people can not access this information at all or may have great difculty in discovering what
places and objects in the city are as is the case of the information shown at bus stops.
460 J.S. de Oliveira Neto and S.T. Kofuji
5 Towards the Inclusive Smart City
The data collected and shown in Sect. 4reinforces the hypothesis that cities still do not
make very important information accessible and that, in many cases, can be vital to
guide citizens in the urban space. Some aspects observed in the area selected determine
that the urban space is a still more complex system concerning PwD needs. On the other
hand, these aspects establish that cities are a source of research opportunities regarding
the improvement of assistive technology already installed and/or the development of
new products and services driven to PwD to allow them to fully use the urban space.
Fig. 4. Low oor and tactile oor indicator Low oor and tactile oor indicator can be very
useful for people with reduced mobility/wheelchair users and visually impaired people. Yet, as
shown in Fig. 4, sometimes they oat on the sideway: no signs show how to reach them
especially to blind people.
Fig. 5. Touristic places Low oor and tactile oor indicator can be very useful for people with
reduced mobility/wheelchair users and visually impaired people. Yet, as shown in Fig. 4,
sometimes they oat on the sideway: no signs show how to reach them especially to blind
Inclusive Smart City: An Exploratory Study 461
Hence, we propose an approach to deal with the observed lack of accessibility in
the urban space and with improving the tools already offered to PwD in cities: the
Inclusive Smart City. Inclusive Smart City is a new citizen-centered approach that
combines pervasive technologies (hardware and software) and the Universal Design
methodology in order to: (i) provide mechanisms that allow people with disabilities to
interact with the urban space and to access geolocalized information and services;
(ii) use ICT to mitigate the segregation of people with disabilities, creating innovative
solutions or adapting some of those already in use but not available to everyone.
The urban space is a rich source of visual, audio and spatial data. People with
disabilities have to face the obstacle of not perceiving one (or several) of these channels
of information. A blind person, for instance, does not perceive what is drawn in a trafc
sign a few meters away. If he/she does not know the place, he/she will probably not
nd where the public bathroom is (even though the place shows the appropriate sign).
Thus, the main feature of the Inclusive Smart City is the ability of identifying
places and objects (or things) and making this information digitally available.
Once this information is available, it can be sent to devices that receive the information
and personalize this information according to the disability of the user.
Fig. 6. Emergency situation warnings There are some places even the goodsighted are not able
to nd. Or places that deserve special attention such as touristic and historical places. These
places have to be made reachable by PwD, too. Some well-known alert mechanisms concerning
dangerous situations are mostly not accessible to PwD: warning sounds at the exit of
underground parking can be misjudged due to street noises; textual messages addressed to
escalator users cannot be accessed by impaired persons (Keep left freein Fig. 6).
462 J.S. de Oliveira Neto and S.T. Kofuji
Fig. 7. Business opportunities Entrepreneurs are missing commercial transactions with PwD
once holiday sales, renting and selling signs, as well as advertisement messages do not reach a
signicant part of the population that has valuable income. Another accessibility barrier is the
identication of business and stores: PwD are simply unable to identify stores they are in front of,
or to be aneurs/wanderers in the streets and shopping malls.
Fig. 8. Urban common facilities Urban facilities such as bus stops, taxi stations, police
stations, hospital, restrooms that are spread all over the city are not easily found by PwD. Most
of these places are identied by signs and even by text written on the road.
Inclusive Smart City: An Exploratory Study 463
6 Conclusions
A Smart City should enable every citizen to use all the services offered, public as well as
private, in the way best suited to his or her needs. PwD are part of the city and have to take
advantage to full access to products, urban equipment, services and information. They
need independency, autonomy and safety. Based on the experiment held in a 1-km area of
São Paulo downtown, we propose the Inclusive Smart City approach: a broader infor-
mation digitalization, the use of Internet of Things, Pervasive Computing, Wearable
Computing, Cloud Computing and other technologies to enhance the role of assistive
technology already available in cities. We believe that the Inclusive Smart City approach
can help PwD to explore neighborhoods and to know things and places by themselves.
Fig. 9. Subway station In large cities, the subway is a very important transport modality. The
larger the subway station, the more confusing direction identication is. Finding information is a
very hard task even for non-PwD., PwD usually depend on volunteers and subway personnel to
help them to move inside these complex universes.
464 J.S. de Oliveira Neto and S.T. Kofuji
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Inclusive Smart City: An Exploratory Study 465
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Debates about the future of urban development in many Western countries have been increasingly influenced by discussions of smart cities. Yet despite numerous examples of this 'urban labelling' phenomenon, we know surprisingly little about so-called smart cities, particularly in terms of what the label ideologically reveals as well as hides. Due to its lack of definitional precision, not to mention an underlying self-congratulatory tendency, the main thrust of this article is to provide a preliminary critical polemic against some of the more rhetorical aspects of smart cities. The primary focus is on the labelling process adopted by some designated smart cities, with a view to problematizing a range of elements that supposedly characterize this new urban form, as well as question some of the underlying assumptions/contradictions hidden within the concept. To aid this critique, the article explores to what extent labelled smart cities can be understood as a high-tech variation of the 'entrepreneurial city', as well as speculates on some general principles which would make them more progressive and inclusive.
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We entered the 21 st century with a strong, global trend to increasing concentration of the population in relatively few, large cities. Large, dense cities can be highly productive, innovative, and per capita very green and hence desirable for our future. However the rapid influx of new citizens presents overwhelming challenges to their governments. Along with the positive benefits that accumulate from dense, diverse cities come in equal measure the negative aspects such as informal development, traffic congestion, waste management, and access to resources and crime. The demand for services is immediate, but the tax revenues to fund them come later. At the same time, globalization has connected cities on opposite sides of the planet in forms of competition previously unknown – for capital, for resources, and for the Creative Class. These challenges lead to experiments with new approaches to the planning, design, finance, construction, governance, and operation of urban infrastructure and services that are broadly called Smart Cities. Some of these approaches are related to emerging roles of information technology. A new professional community – the Urban Systems Collaborative – has formed to foster mutual learning among members of the architecture, planning, engineering, transportation, utilities, information technology, operations research, social sciences, geography and environmental science, public finance and policy, and communications profession. One of its hypotheses is a new theory of cities that makes use of new, rich sources of information about what is going on in the city. Among other things, it seeks to understand the impact that information technology can have on the urban fabric and norms of behaviour.
Conference Paper
This paper discusses the applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in smart cities, their opportunities and their challenges. It focuses on the city of Dubai as an example. UAVs have a wide range of applications in many fields like environmental hazards monitoring, traffic management and pollution monitoring, all of which contributes greatly to the development of any smart city. These opportunities among several others are discussed in this paper. Several challenges and issues such as safety, privacy and ethical use are of great concern and are also outlined.
Conference Paper
Internet of things is a ubiquitous technology that will be present everywhere. One of the first applications will be smart cities. Cities are growing in population and citizens demand better services from the administration without increasing taxes. The only way to attend this demand is to improve information and how this is treated to take decisions. In other words, we should make the city smart. Smart cities are a novel concept that defines new technologies but also reuses some of the existing ones. All novel solutions phase the same problem: the lack of standards and widely accepted solutions. The City of Barcelona with the collaboration from research centers and industrial partners has been testing the smart city concept with the double purpose to contribute to the creation of standards and providing in the interim a solution to cope with the heterogeneity of providers, in particular from the wireless sensor part. This work has been structured as a "Barcelona Intelligent City" project or BCI. BCI project considers all the steps of the data process from its capture by a sensor network to the processing to make it relevant (pointing events that requires attention) and rich (with context information). Conclusions from the pilots has started to be applied. One example is the sensoring in civil works control. This paper includes some lines about Avinguda de l'Estatut Civil Works Project and its conclusions.
A vision of smarter cities
IBM: "A vision of smarter cities," 23 Jun 2009. ssialias?infotype=PM&subtype=XB&appname=GBSE_GB_TI_USEN&htmlfid=GBE0322 7USEN&attachment=GBE03227USEN.PDF. Accessed 24 Feb 2016
Smart cities: background paper-Publications-GOV.UK. https:// www. gov. uk/ government/ publications/ smart-cities-background-paper
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