CityGuide: Seamless and Inclusive Location-Based Services for Communities
Lead PI:
Vinod Namboodiri

Persons with disabilities in our communities often find it difficult to achieve and maintain an independent and high quality of life. A significant cause of this issue is the challenge in independently accessing locations and services within the community. In spite of advances in global positioning system (GPS)-enabled applications, there are many daily-life scenarios where the lack of adequate location-based services presents mobility and access challenges to persons with disabilities. The long-term vision for this project is to design, deploy, evaluate, and refine an inclusive community-wide system (accessed through a smartphone app) called CityGuide that provides various auxiliary location-based services (ALBSs) for people with disabilities (and the general population), complementing satellite-based GPS systems. CityGuide will provide a core wayfinding application as a service with the twin capabilities of exploration and navigation. Building upon this core wayfinding service, numerous other applications can be built; some specific applications of interest within the scope of the project are: emergency evacuation, remote assistance, and transit.

This project attempts to use a common technology infrastructure to simultaneously serve the auxiliary wayfinding needs of people with a broad range of disabilities. The top-level goal of using technology to improve accessibility in communities naturally requires integrative socio-technical research contributions that advances knowledge on multiple fronts. From a technology design perspective, the project advances knowledge about providing seamless and scalable indoor and outdoor location-based services. From an information design perspective, the project advances knowledge about contextually appropriate cues and content for a variety of location-based applications. From a human-computer interaction perspective, the project advances knowledge in applying universal design principles towards accessing location-based services. From an economic analysis perspective, the project advances knowledge about the impact of economies of scope and scale in the feasibility and sustainability of accessibility technologies in small to medium-sized communities. Expected societal impacts from the project include the development of wayfinding technologies (and associated tech transfer) that provides people with disabilities and also the general population a useful tool to increase their independence, and thus, quality of life; and creation of a model for other similar future efforts (beyond wayfinding) to address the need for greater inclusivity in how various community-based services are accessed.

Vinod Namboodiri
Vinod Namboodiri is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and College of Health at Lehigh University. He joined Lehigh in July 2023. Vinod directs the Accessibility and Assistive Technologies (ACCESS) Research Laboratory which has the mission of exploring the design, evaluation, and use of computing and information technologies (in the form of Assistive and Accessibility Technologies) to benefit people challenged by health disparities, including disabilities. His current research focuses on wayfinding solutions for persons with disabilities and is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC) and Convergence Accelerator programs. Vinod has received several college and university level awards for research, teaching, and innovation over his career. He received his Ph.D. from UMass Amherst and has held appointments as a Full Professor and Associate Director for Research Engagement at Wichita State University, and as an Adjunct Senior Scientist at the Envision Research Institute.
Performance Period: 10/01/2020 - 09/30/2024
Institution: Wichita State University
Award Number: 1951864