Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Conigital is seeking a test-bed for a ground-breaking service that can map the interior of large public buildings, enabling the visually impaired to navigate via their smartphone.
The tech start-up is founded by Roger Wilson-Hind, who has been blind since birth. It has already created the ‘GeorgiePhone’ app, which enables the visually impaired to way-find outdoors. Monique Seth has joined the business as Healthcare Director, after introducing sensor technology within his care homes, which has reduced fall rates and other incidents by over 50 per cent. Prem Moti has joined as Technical Director, having previously been part of the team that pioneered the technology to install a wireless network on the London Underground – which is where the conceptual idea for indoor navigation came from.
Roger Wilson-Hind said: “The GeorgiePhone app has received over 10,000 downloads. It enables outdoor navigation for the visually impaired via their smartphone, without needing the assistance of a guide. It has revolutionised my daily life, giving me the independence to travel, receive train and bus timetable information and order taxis. But once I get to my destination, that’s where the guidance currently stops.
“The technology urgently needs to be put in place to enable the visually impaired to reach the correct department in a hospital, visit a chosen shop within a shopping centre, or even an area of interest within a library or department store. This is what a smart city should be about! Conigital is developing this revolutionary technology, which can map the interior of any building to a 50cm accuracy. We now need to work with the facilities managers of large public buildings to put it in place, so that the visually impaired can test it in action.”
Conigital’s technology will enable the visually impaired to open a talking map of the inside of a building. It will also include menus of participating restaurants. The ‘Internet of Things’ sensors that Conigital will install into a building can also provide management data on footfall by relaying information from all smartphone geolocation tracking systems. It will amalgamate wifi and bluetooth networks with beacon sensors.
Conigital is one of the tech start-ups currently enrolled on Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme, which assigns an Entrepreneur in Residence to work with each start-up for a six to nine month duration. Additional benefits include free office space, meeting rooms, wifi, telecoms, access to finance, visiting expert sessions and a wide range of networking events and peer group sessions. 120 tech start-ups have been incubated by the Entrepreneurs for the Future programme since November 2009, with over £10 million raised in initial investment rounds.
The company was invited to speak at the recent Innovate UK 2015 event, after receiving support from the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) and Innovate UK. Further support has come from Birmingham Made Me, IDEA Birmingham, Birmingham City University, University of Warwick and Coventry University. Conigital’s GeorgiePhone app is a past winner of the Google European Diversity Awards. The start-up also recently won a pitching competition at ‘Opportunity Knocks’ – an initiative jointly run by KPMG and NatWest Bank’s Entrepreneurial Spark programme.
David Golding, Head of European & International Policy, EEN/Innovate UK, said: “Conigital is exactly the type of innovative technology company we want to support, in order to drive forward inclusive Smart City solutions for all citizens.”
The Internet of Things will become the largest device market in the world. Business Intelligence estimates that by 2019 there will be 23.3 billion active Internet of Things devices connected to the internet. Hardware will account for only $50 billion (£32.9 billion) by 2019, whereas software and service providers will generate up to $550 billion (£362 billion) revenue. It is anticipated the Internet of Things market will result in $1.7 trillion (£1.12 trillion) added to the global economy in 2019.
Monique Seth, Healthcare Director of Conigital said: “As an early stage business, getting the right advice, partners and support networks are essential to help you grow and avoid common mistakes and pitfalls. Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme, EEN and Innovate UK have provided invaluable support in understanding us as a company, our technology, the marketplace, and have provided us with a platform to showcase our technology to the world.
“Our goal is to empower the visually impaired with the confidence to travel (way-find) outdoors and within public buildings seamlessly and unassisted, from point-to-point through an inclusively designed smart mesh sensor network, utilising their smartphone. We now believe we are one step closer to making this a reality.”