What if your shoes could navigate for you? Lechal, a company that set out to “rethink the way the visually challenged navigate,” has made that possible with smart insoles that sync with a GPS navigation app and vibrate to tell you where to go.
“The white cane, the most commonly-used assistive device by the visually-impaired, has changed little in more than 100 years even as technology has leap-frogged centuries,” the Lechal website states. “Our challenge was to find a simple solution to a problem few had thought to tackle and our answer lay in haptics or the technology of touch.”
Those intelligent insoles serve as one example of how Internet of Things (IoT) devices can break down barriers and make life easier for people with disabilities.
Greater Autonomy Through Smart Devices: IoT Use Cases for People Living With Disabilities
From wearables that monitor vital signs like your heart rate to smart doorbells that alert you when someone shows up on your porch, the modern world is full of the internet-connected devices that make up the IoT. Our homes and workplaces alike are increasingly populated by these “smart” products for the purposes of comfort, efficiency and data collection. Business Insider Intelligence projects that the number of IoT devices will increase from 8 billion in 2019 to 41 billion by 2027.
The pandemic has fueled the growth of the IoT as healthcare providers have turned to smart devices such as internet-connected medical equipment and drones to deliver vital supplies and monitor patients’ vital signs, according to research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the IoT Analytics article “The impact of Covid-19 on the Internet of Things – now and beyond the Great Lockdown: Part 1.”
As IoT devices streamline many aspects of our daily lives, they also have significant potential to make various settings more accessible for people with disabilities and help them to overcome obstacles at home, school and work.
“While these applications certainly add a level of fun and convenience for all users, the applications take on a whole new level of importance when used by persons with disabilities and older adults,” states a report titled “Internet of Things: New Promises for Persons with Disabilities” from the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict).
Smart devices can potentially remove barriers and improve quality of life for individuals living with disabilities in the following ways, according to the G3ict report and The IoT Magazine article, “How IoT Breaks Barriers for People with Disabilities.”
- Wearable devices can read text communications like email messages out loud or translate them into braille.
- Smart homes (including appliances such as thermostats, lights, ovens and refrigerators that can be controlled via voice commands or mobile apps) can help people with limited mobility exercise greater control over their surroundings and easily adjust aspects of their home they would otherwise have trouble reaching.
- Smart eyeglasses can offer captions to assist those with hearing loss.
- Intelligent security systems can provide alerts via mobile app to people who wouldn’t hear an intruder breaking in.
Overall, smart devices can and already are eliminating day-to-day difficulties and making our world more accessible for individuals living with disabilities.
Obstacles and Concerns on the Road to Successful IoT Adoption and Utilization
Although the IoT possesses an incredible ability to increase inclusivity, there are also some potential barriers to the adoption of internet-connected devices among people with disabilities. Technology suppliers and proponents of accessibility must address these concerns, according to the G3ict report and a report titled “The Internet of Things (IoT) and People with Disabilities: Exploring the Benefits, Challenges and Privacy Tensions” published by the Future of Privacy Forum.
- Inclusive design is vital if we want these devices to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Device, network and app makers must know about universal design and keep accessibility top-of-mind.
- People with disabilities might not have the internet access needed for smart devices and might require assistance with installment and adoption. American adults with disabilities tend to be less comfortable with technology, according to a Pew Research Center survey that found only 39 percent of people living with disabilities said having a high level of confidence in their ability to utilize the internet and other communication tools to stay well-informed described them “very well,” compared to 65 percent of all Americans ages 18 and up.
- Smart devices can collect large amounts of personal data about the lives and habits of the people who rely on them, and this presents privacy concerns. The individuals who rely on these devices must be well-educated on and given the option to exercise control over the collection of their personal information, according to G3ict.
Despite these possible issues, however, with thoughtful development and deployment by people focused on accessibility, IoT devices can contribute to the creation of a better world.
For more information on the IoT and other advanced technologies, feel free to reach out to our technology advisors by calling 877-599-3999 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.