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Bus, tram or train? ASSISTANT helps older people make a decision

After years of driving a car, even your hometown can become highly unfamiliar when looking at it from a public transport perspective. The ASSISTANT project is providing a solution with specific attention to the needs of older people.

After years of driving a car, even your hometown can become highly unfamiliar when looking at it from a public transport perspective. The ASSISTANT project is providing a solution with specific attention to the needs of older people. With an ageing society and increasingly populated and congested cities, European mobility is set to become more and more of a brainteaser over the years to come. Smart, real-time information on transport solutions is key to solving this issue. However, while numerous concepts for mobile applications have been or are currently being developed (notably under FP7-funded projects), a technology built specifically to meet the needs of older people has yet to be commercialised. Such a game-changing app is, however, being developed under a project co-financed by the Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme of the European Commission. Named ASSISTANT, the project aims to build an app that is able to help older people decide on what is the most convenient public transport solution to get to their destination. The ASSISTANT app, which has been successfully tested by users between the ages of 65 and 90 in Spain, Finland and Austria, is available on computers and smartphones. It has been designed to help users who are unfamiliar with the local public transport system, either because this is their first visit in town or because they were forced to switch to public transport after losing the ability to drive a car. The consortium, led by Tecnalia in Spain, focused on developing a smart app that is easy to use for older people. ‘All the user has to do is input a starting point and a destination. On the screen the tool instantly displays the best alternative plus details about the public transport that has to be taken, as well as precise instructions as to whether it is necessary to change to a different route or means of transport,’ explains Tecnalia in a recent press release. The app tells the user how long the trip will take, alerts them when they need to get off and even warns about possible incidents along the way. All this information helps making the right decision at the right time to and even goes as far as providing information on how to avoid stairs or other architectural specificities that might hamper the progress of older people. Five users have been selected to test the ASSISTANT app in each of the three countries, with facilitators helping them to plan an itinerary at home and shadowing them as they are using the mobile. All feedback is then being collected and analysed. ‘The field trial experience is very enriching as all the project partners are involved. Each partner brings specific expertise and exchanges ideas to conduct the pilot in the best and most realistic conditions. This pilot phase is essential to the project, as we will get the first reactions from users, enabling us to check that we are going in the right direction,’ said Monique Epstein from project partner organisation E-Seniors, which is leading the pilots. The project involved Citruna Technologies OY (Finland), E-Seniors (France), Fara OY (Norway), Transport & Travel Research Ltd (United Kingdom), the University of Vienna (Austria), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Finland), Fara (Finland) and IN2 (United Kingdom). The final app is expected to be ready in 2015, when the likes of city and provincial councils as well as private organisations will begin to incorporate it into their regular services.For more information, please visit: ASSISTANT http://www.aal-assistant.eu/

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16 August 2017