Despite the efforts to promote sustainable transportation systems, cities still face challenges in distributing public street space to different uses. For example, double-parking caused by delivery vehicles is one of the main negative impacts of the outburst in last-mile deliveries. This impacts private vehicles and vital roads, generating conflicts with pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, and emergency vehicles. In addition, data on curbside (e.g., parking, loading zones) is unstructured and insufficient to take proper decisions. There is a need for innovative measures to help cities reduce congestion and trips, achieve sustainable mobility goals, improve delivery efficiency, and potentially increase revenues. Last year, a consortium of EIT Urban Mobility’s partners began the FlexCurb project to find new and innovative solutions. Co-funded by EIT Urban Mobility, the project aims to overcome all these challenges through a series of tools used by drivers and public administration.
Thanks to the success of 2022, the project recently kicked off its 2023 edition. Its main focus during 2023 will be to validate the solution in real-life environments further and adapt the existing technology to the particular case of the pilot city of Strasbourg, France. Also, the Connected Vehicles extension for the FlexCurb Planning platform will be designed and validated during the year. This will reveal historical patterns of curb use and inform actions to reduce occupancy rates, and illegal parking, redistribute curb spaces, and promote sustainable mobility and logistics.
In addition, the FlexCurb Driver App is being upgraded. New features will be added, and the main objective will be to help drivers inform about their operations by displaying the areas of the city with the most and least parking activity based on historical patterns at a given time. This feature will help to control the flow of vehicles, as many drivers will be able to evaluate whether it is convenient for them to drive their cars based on the parking activity mentioned.
These tests intend to keep enhancing the app and adapting it to the needs of users and councils. Looking back, during 2022 the project achieved significant results in developing innovative solutions for curbside management with the cities of Leuven, Strasbourg, Funchal, and Toulouse. One of them was creating the concept of Shared-Use Mixed Zones (SUM Zones), which integrates parking management, urban vehicle access regulations, and freight management with flexible curbside management.
Considering the needs of various stakeholders, including pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation, and freight services, the proposed curbside management solutions can potentially revolutionize urban mobility by promoting a balanced and inclusive transportation ecosystem. This approach will reduce the environmental impact of conveyance, minimize vehicle emissions, and support the shift towards greener modes of transportation.
The partners involved in the project are CTAG, Urban Radar, CARNET, Ghent University, the city of Funchal, Toulouse Métropole, Ville et Eurométropole de Strasbourg, city of Leuven, POLIS Network, and FIT Consulting.
Nowadays, a new generation of sector-agnostic VC (Venture Capital) funds is emerging to laser-focus on solutions advocating for inclusivity. This trend follows the political agenda of decision-makers backed by a vast amount of data collected in the past decade. As showcased in multiple studies, they serve researchers and thought leaders when pointing out gaps and deficiencies existing in the current mobility systems. Technological leap with the high pace in which urban areas grow makes them an incredibly attractive, albeit competitive space for solution providers where implementation speed and economic efficiency naturally gain the position of urging priorities.
Although it is true that competition translates into quality and eventually leads to cutting down on emissions while improving the quality of life, so-called smart cities are often overseeing vulnerable groups and minorities with needs that are different from the regular user profile. In this article, a hi-tech software solution supporting the blind and visually impaired will be discussed.
How does Dreamwaves work?
As an organization bridging all types of stakeholders under the pan-European roof, the special mandate of EIT Urban Mobility is to be vocal about the mobility-related needs of vulnerable minorities and lead the peloton of actors working on safe and inclusive public spaces.
Dreamwaves, an Austrian start-up founded and led by Hugo Furtado, Liliana Calapez, Elke Mattheiss, and Lukas Zimmermann strengthened the company’s equity portfolio with the right tool to work on this agenda. Namely, a software employing augmented reality technology to unlock the unique sound navigation experience to its users, making them feel safe and welcome on the busy streets. With Dreamwaves, the blind and visually impaired can navigate their surroundings with greater confidence and independence, creating a more equitable environment for all.
Why we invested in Dreamwaves?
What sparked EIT Urban Mobility investor´s attention and dispelled potential doubts? Let´s zoom at a simple 3xT test applied in this case as a part of standard qualification analysis.
It all started with a spotted opportunity and a multi-billion market that awaited to be unleashed. As he later admitted during one of the off-track conversations, Hugo Furtado – CEO of Dreamwaves – was always a passion-driven entrepreneur centered on new technologies and out-of-the-box innovations. To be crazy or not to be at all. Following the music and gaming industries racing solitary for both hardware and software improvements to take the sound experience to the next level, he already saw a brand-new use case. It later resulted with the thought that it pays off to look right when everyone goes left. And talking about the majority, all of us interact with audio content while commuting or during physical outdoor activities. It is nothing strange considering the fact that – following Eurostat´s data (1) – in 2019 an average commuting time oscillated around 25 minutes. However, as explained with greater detail in different study (2), for one-fifth of the population it could be extended to over 90 minutes per day.
To put it briefly: headphones, of all sizes and kinds, are nowadays an extension of our bodies. Extension that might be more than a source of entertainment, especially for the blind and visually impaired. Dreamwaves decided to be the voice of blind people, making them see the world through their ears.
In principle, the whole concept of screen- and hands-free navigation offered via waveOut can be stressed in three steps. Once the destination is selected and the journey kicks-off, virtual waypoints are being placed in the real world around the user. On the fly. The goal is to reach them and to make it happen, the user must hear them. That is when the sound is activated. It can be compared to a phone call when the ringtone allows us to locate the device. The closer we are, by nature the louder becomes the sound. The same law applies to the Dreamwaves´ software. As soon as the checkpoint is reached, the next waypoint is placed, and the voice switches its location. Again and over, following the beat of a gentle drum until the doormat. Or one´s favourite bookshop.
As simple and naïve the above may sound, the way-finding solution enclosed in the app requires the latest augmented reality toolkits, global positioning advances and machine learning methods behind the scenes. Additional challenges lie in the accuracy that in the busy streets full of static obstacles and dynamic objects must be ultimately reliable. Understanding the state-of-the art of computer vision methods to determine the location of the user in real time helps to overcome this barrier.
Connected to the multi-object environment but being a separate problem class is omnipresent noise pollution. As the solution is hardware-agnostic, meaning that no special upfront investment in wearables is required, it is crucial to ensure that the best experience is provided, even with some quality being lost. This trade-off is a fair price for making the solution truly open and accessible to everyone.
3. Tests & Testimonials
While Dreamwaves is changing the way people understand and sense their locations, the competent and interdisciplinary team navigate itself company´s growth by hearing to the group of early-adopters and tech geeks. Hundreds of individuals were involved in the design and testing phases, with the others feeding engineers with further, post-launch testimonials.
“The best thing we ever heard from a user was: “It’s a bit like seeing. The fact that I constantly can hear the direction I have to go to is a great advantage!”. This made us really proud, and also gave us the feeling that we are in the right direction. On the tough days, thinking about this and other pieces of feedback, really keeps us motivated and going!” – said Hugo Furtado, the CEO of Dreamwaves.
Besides feedback, interactions are constantly feeding the team with new ideas, because the real beauty of every journey lies in additional opportunities being unfolded on the way. For Dreamwaves, these are cavernous cycling and travelling markets where hundreds of millions of users are looking for tricks to make their lives easier and their urban trips saver. Is there anyone out there who didn’t manoeuvre the bike with one hand while staring at phone maps?
Future Mobility: amplifying the voice of inclusivity
Accompanied by the story of Hugo, Liliana, Elke, and Lukas this is the space to reflect all the barriers that still must be overcome to eradicate the gap between the blind or visually impaired and the rest sensing the surrounding with sight. With its first step and team efforts, Dreamwaves points to the direction we should look at technology. Its proper incorporation into urban and suburban areas can significantly enrich the existing toolkit, making the lenses through which smart cities are defined adjusted to the needs of commuting minorities. Only then we will be entitled to call streets inclusive and open spaces.
Do you want to know more about Dreamwaves’s mission and its solutions?
Mateusz Kaluza – investments analyst at EIT Urban Mobility, passionate about data and active mobility. Scouting for impact-driven innovations enabling shift towards citizen-oriented transportation systems. Contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org
When thinking about the scope of urban mobility, there is always a vertical that pops into our minds and this is city logistics. However, what fits within the concept of logistics is never too obvious. Construction tech is a rapidly growing industry that has the potential to transform the way we build and manage our cities, and yes, it’s an industry directly related with urban logistics.
EIT Urban Mobility has made a ground-breaking investment in ProperGate, a Polish construction tech start-up that has become the first successful investment in Poland for the organisation.
How does ProperGate work?
ProperGate’s innovative platform aims to digitize and streamline the construction logistics management process, reducing the time, cost, and environmental impact of construction projects. With ProperGate’s platform, builders and suppliers can track and manage their deliveries to construction projects in real time, identify and address issues more quickly and efficiently, and reduce the need for paper-based documentation.
ProperGate addresses the needs of all potential customers in the construction supply chain, from real estate developers and investors to subcontractors and suppliers, all having a customized profile to sign up for within the platform. And yet its direct customers are not the only ones to benefit from the results of the solution, as the use of ProperGate’s innovation indirectly contributes to the development of the professional construction sector by adding tools and methods that will have to be acquired by young professionals.
Why we invested in ProperGate?
Construction site logistics can be a significant pain point not only for the constructors but also for the surrounding city and the people that live in it.
Give it a thought; the usually limited space around an urban construction site can make it difficult to manoeuvre large construction vehicles and equipment, leading to potential safety hazards and logistical challenges for the delivery of materials and supplies; in already densely populated areas, heavy traffic around the construction site can cause more delays and disruptions than normal and often become a significant source of disruptive noise, having severe effects in the health and well-being of citizens. On top of all these challenges, construction sites also contribute to polluting the city, with negative environmental impacts ranging from air and water pollution to soil contamination. Therefore, managing construction site logistics effectively is crucial to minimizing the negative impact of construction on the surrounding urban environment.
The onboarding of ProperGate into EIT Urban Mobility’s equity portfolio is testament of a threefold purpose: First, as its first successful investment in a Polish registered company, EIT Urban Mobility proofs to have fruitfully taken measures to ensure that funds are directed towards the RIS region; second, as EIT Urban Mobility’s first investment in the construction tech industry, the KIC shows its commitment to explore and boost the endless potential of the urban mobility meaning; and finally, by supporting the gender-diverse C-level team that leads ProperGate, EIT Urban Mobility is also backing its mission of promoting female entrepreneurship.
Do you want to know more about ProperGate’s mission and its solutions?
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest news and insights
Connect with us
Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc. These cookies are optional.
The _ga cookie, installed by Google Analytics, calculates visitor, session and campaign data and also keeps track of site usage for the site's analytics report. The cookie stores information anonymously and assigns a randomly generated number to recognize unique visitors.
This cookie is installed by Google Analytics.
A variation of the _gat cookie set by Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to allow website owners to track visitor behaviour and measure site performance. The pattern element in the name contains the unique identity number of the account or website it relates to.
Provided by Google Tag Manager to experiment advertisement efficiency of websites using their services.
Installed by Google Analytics, _gid cookie stores information on how visitors use a website, while also creating an analytics report of the website's performance. Some of the data that are collected include the number of visitors, their source, and the pages they visit anonymously.
YouTube sets this cookie via embedded youtube-videos and registers anonymous statistical data.