Learning about Mobility4all team

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Mobility4all, the winner app at the iCity Contest, was developed by a team of three students of Computer Engineering Faculty at the University Politechnic of Catalonia and three Phd in computer science from the same university. Marc Garnica, Manish Thani, Samuel Bryan, all of them from Barcelona, are the students who played as developers. Xavier Franch is senior lecturer at the University Politechnic of Catalonia and was the one who think up the app, although had Lidia’s López help, researcher at the same university. Finally, Cristina Gómez is associate professor and the coordinator of the students’ work.

The creators of the app Mobility4all were interviewed by the iCity Project and the entire interview can be found below:

1. How did you hear about the contest? 

BDigital organized a conference on November 2014 where the iCity Project introduced its iCity Camp 2014. Some of us (research group GESSI at the UPC) attended at the camp and found out about the iCity Contest.

2. How did you hear about the iCity Project?

We were familiar with the iCity Project because our research group GESSI (at the UPC) is involved in some European projects from the program FP7. 

3. Why did you apply for the contest?

As a team we thought that it would be a great opportunity to test some ideas that we are going to develop in our research and docent department at the FIB.
Besides, it was a chance for the developers to learn and create their first real app. Also personal motivations were implicated. We are talking about Lidia López, researcher, who has a friend with motor disability and is well aware of the difficulties these people have to face when moving through the city. Difficulties which for the rest of us are unimaginable. So, when Lidia heard about our idea wanted to get involved.

4. Did you have a project in mind or you created it from scratch for the contest? 

Actually we already had some ideas but were in a very initial phase so we had to create a special project for the contest. We contacted a member of the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Catalan Association in order to comprehend better this collective need and develop a truly useful app. For example we learnt that they use the Google’s Street View to find out whether a path have architectural barriers. We were also concerned about the parking issue.

5. Which is your apps name and what are its functionalities? 

It is called Mobility4all, which we consider is quite representative of its essence. The app has two main functionalities; it sends notifications about new or removed architectural barriers in real time and, creates routes to help you visualize the obstacles that will be found through the user route.

6. Why should you win the contest? What makes your app special? 

Besides its obvious aim, to help people with disabilities to move through the city, the app has as main utility to help citizen realize that the city is plenty of obstacles, partly because this collective is no taken in consideration when its time to plan the urbanism. We are not only talking about disabled citizens but also about parents struggling with a baby carriage in a narrow sidewalk or trying to avoid a lamppost that block his path. Stairs at the street and metro stations without elevator are also representing huge problems for people using crutches. Some cities have already realized that its streets shouldn’t be designed for cars but, citizen’s mobility is still an issue we need to work on.
Besides the main functionalities we mentioned before, we plan to implement some more like a street view that allows the pedestrian to check a particular area, specially when it’s foreigner in the city; adapted public transport routes and recognition of free parking so the user will be able to avoid paying private services in order to park close to his destination.

7. Talk to us about your experience at the iCity Project… How did the iCity Platform worked for you?

Cristina: Although we had to struggle with some issues with few services that gave difficulties in the development of the functionalities and design of the app, getting to know the iCity Project and the iCity Platform has been a rewarding experience. I think there should be more systems to get access to because its possibilities are innumerable.

8. The smart city concept is present in most of technological news section... But what do you think a smart city should be?

Cristina: It’s a tricky question. I would say that there is no consensus about an official smart city definition. To me, is a city that offers services to its citizens, most of them with a high technological component, which aim is to improve quality of life and the city’s sustainability. 
Marc: Any smart city should be able to use technology advance for offering a wide range of improvements for the quotidian life of its citizens. Once this statement is done there are no limits for creation.
Samuel: Besides what my colleagues mentioned, I think environment should be another focus. The city should lead by example and make easy for the citizens the right manage of resources and residues.
Manish: The main goal of a smart city should ease the difficulties that suffer some citizens, for example those with mental or physical disabilities. The city has to do its best to use the new technologies and modern resources like the iCity Platform to achieve this goal.

9. Which role play projects like iCity in the creation of smart cities? 

Cristina: Those projects are very useful to keep citizens informed about the available data and services that may help them achieve a better quality of life. There is still work to do but I think is a starting point from which the future smart cities will be built on.
Marc: iCity is a pretty good promoter of technological applications but it could go further and become a referent in its development in every city adhered.
Manish: I agree with Marc, I think the project would be much more interesting if more cities collaborated with it.  

10. Are you going to keep working on the smart cities field? How? 

Xavier: Yes, we are involved in European projects like H2020 so we intend to work on this field for a few more years, at least.
Cristina: We are actually working on an architecture that allow us to develop apps adaptable to different cities so there is no need to create an specific one for each smart city.
Marc: As a citizen and student of informatics engineering I am always looking for ideas and improvements where to use my knowledge and keep learning.
Samuel:  I think is a very interesting subject, I enjoyed this experience but I would like to make it bigger and keep improving and increasing Mobility4all’s functionalities. So, yes, I would like to participate in more smart cities’ projects.
Manish: Yes, I count on keep working on this subject. My intention is to participate in more projects like this while looking for new useful ideas related with the smart cities field, like Mobility4all.