Smart Wayfinding Systems Tested in the Washington, D.C. Area to Facilitate Efficiency in Accessible Indoor Mobility for Travelers Navigating Complex Transit Hubs.
Real-time location and route guidance are essential to support the requirements of accessible travelers. As a part of the USDOT’s Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI), researchers developed a Smart Wayfinding and Navigation (SWaN) service, intended for venue owners and developers to better deliver accessible real-time location, navigation and planning capabilities to travelers. A SWaN service allows a user to navigate independently through complex urban transport structures and continue all the way to their destination. The SWaN mobile service, a background application on standard smartphones, used data from small accessory sensors to estimate the user’s location as they move through a building. The background mobile service with open application programming interface (API) delivered routing, user location, orientation, waypoint navigation, and real-time route guidance within complex transit facilities or public buildings. Field testing and validation of the SWaN capability was conducted at Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia, Washington Metrorail, and Union Station in Washington, D.C.
- Enable turn-by-turn wayfinding by using wireless beacons at “choke points” and selected areas. Although testing at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center and Union Station demonstrated that the core location and routing service could work without infrastructure, addition of wireless beacons at “choke points” or select areas within the facility can help to achieve the high accuracy needed to support turn-by-turn routing.
- Create zones for more realistic representation of user paths. Zones would allow establishment of user routes through large open spaces in transit facilities, rather than using unrealistic single line representations as roadway-like paths.
- Host a hackathon to fine-tune the API. An event bringing software developers and coders together could help to add to the maturity of the API development, finalize the required documentations, and perform updates based on developer feedback. The most important benefit was that it provided a high maturity target for development – outside developers who would be using the APIs to develop their own applications.
- Be wary of variations in train routing. Station routing, particularly at terminals, may vary among different subway/metro environments, and within the same transit agency at different times of days. In some cases, subsequent transit rides even at the same time of day may vary in track location.
- Cache the data for offline accessibility to the system information. Caching (storing a local device-accessible copy) of map information enables access to the entire metro even if internet access is not available, but requires optimization. At the beginning of a route, data may be downloaded for the complete intended route. However, dealing with route changes and emergency routing can be a challenge, as internet access would then be required to access route changes.