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Combining Current Technologies to Make our Pedestrian Life Better/Safer

Lets talk about health and technologies. Not Life-Science, but what new telecommunication technologies can do for our health. For sure there is a lot done by new technologies already:

This is all great, however it is not responding to some problems such as new technologies creating health problems. One example I have recently been readying about:
Serious Injuries Have Tripled Among Walkers Wearing Headphones. This study from Injury Prevention reported by the WebMD article, explains how people listening to their iPlayers, lose consciousness of their environment and can get in dangerous situations at pedestrian crossings for instance.
Most people listening to their iPlayers in a public environment, want to be in their “Bubbles”, listening to their own music, not the Gym music, not the Subway loud noises, not the side-walk loud conversations. I think the Walkman then Discman and now MP3 players have been and are great in that sense, as they allow you to listen to music and audiobooks everywhere and at any time, to get you to relax and take a break from the outside world, if you need to. 

Now going back to the study, the conclusion says “The use of headphones with handheld devices may pose a safety risk to pedestrians, especially in environments with moving vehicles”. Lets say this is only at street crossing. How could this be fixed? 

Here is what I thought about it while reading the article as I believe this problem created by a new technology (iPlayers having becoming cheaper and mainstream) can be fixed by new technologies:

 

  • It is a question of location near a pedestrian crossing. Solution would be to pause or reduce the music volume while crossing in order to 1) make the pedestrian notice there is a crossing, and 2) make the pedestrian aware it has to “step out of its Bubble” for 3 seconds while crossing. The technology already exists to make your Smartphone / iPlayer react intelligently to your environment. For instance, this can be done through Aware Wining App “Locale”. As explained by the makers on the website: “With Locale, you create situations specifying conditions under which your phone’s settings should change”.
  • It is a question of telecommunication between the Smartphone or the iPlayer and the Traffic Signal / Sign at the crossing of 2 streets / roads. The solution would come from technologies such as Wifi, Bluetooth, RFID or NFC. Technology such as NFC, “Near Field” technology, is specific to millimetres communications, therefore maybe too short. Bluetooth and Wifi might need a password or identification process. However I am sure it is possible to have a Smartphone or iPlayer scanning for Wifi or Bluetooth signals with a specific meaning, not requiring any identification, which would just be a recognition process to identify the proximity of a street / road crossing. If there was a need of identification, I am thinking EAP-SIM for Wifi for instance. The best solution would probably come from RFID and its application to highway electronic toll collection. I experienced it in Portugal at high speed. If you can do it at 120km/h (65 mph), for sure you can do something fairly similar in a street at pedestrian pace.
  • It is a question of long lasting battery as Wifi / Bluetooth / RFID communications would need to be switched on at least during the entire time while in the streets. The solution comes from manufacturers current efforts to enhance their batteries technologies. Samsung is looking at it and Motorola has came back to the market with a solution, the DROID RAZR MAXX: 3,300 mAh battery in a 8.99 mm body for 145 grams (as a reference, the infamous iPhone 4S has a 1,432mAh battery in a 9.3 mm body for 140 grams).

 

I believe software, hardware and physics concerns are not problematic in this “Serious Injuries Have Tripled Among Walkers Wearing Headphones” problem as pointed out just above. Therefore manufacturers, smartphone designers, programmers, mayors, and whomever can do something about it, just do something to save lives. 

If you don’t do it to save people lives, at least do it to save Apple customers! More than 300 millions iPods and about 170 millions iPhones sold. That’s a lot of Pedestrians and Rollerskaters!

 

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