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Airport Tracking Device for Blind and Partially Sighted

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Technology
Wordcount: 2651 words Published: 5th Jul 2018

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Expanding ambient technologies for blind and partially sighted people has rapidly grown over the last few years, enabling people to become more independent in their daily lives. Ambient intelligence is already becoming commonplace in the environment through the widespread use of computing, mobile devices, and information appliances, thereby increasing the ease of communication “between individuals, between individuals and things, and between things.”[1]

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A new ICT device has been developed that will help those with impaired or no sight safely navigate through airports. This report will explain some of the technology that will go into this device and how it will work in terms of providing directional assistance in a place like an airport where one’s surroundings are not familiar and confusion is easy when there is a lot of noise and movement.

Understanding Ambient Technologies

The field of ambient technologies focuses on providing “greater user-friendliness, more efficient services support, user empowerment, and support for human interactions.”[2] In this way, the devices that come from the use of this technology will offer for “opportunities for social integration and independent living for elderly people and people who are disabled.”[3] Interestingly enough, this technology may also advance in terms of being able to tune into any cognitive limitations and the devices incorporating ambient technology can then adjust themselves to that person’s specific abilities and limitations.[4]

This emerging type of technology is supporting a new way for human beings and technology to interact so that “devices will no longer be perceived as computers, but rather as augmented elements of the physical environment.”[5] The movement to an information-based society will “be populated by a multitude of hand-held and wearable micro-devices and computational power and interaction peripherals.”[6] This provides a host of opportunities for many people who might not have been able to be as interactive with their environment due to some physical disability.

Complexity and Challenges

Ambient technologies still has a long way to go in terms of reaching its objectives. There are a number of overriding challenges to this emerging technology. Generally, it is perceived that ambient technologies must be “reliable, continuously available in space and time, consistent in its functionalities and interaction in private and (crowded and potentially hazardous) public spaces.”[7]

In 2005, IBM researchers identified a number of areas that would need to be addressed before ambient technologies could achieve some of the aforementioned benefits. These challenges include “the distribution of interaction over devices and modalities, the balance between automation and adaption and direct control, the identification of contextual dependencies among services, health and safety issues, privacy and security, and social interaction in ambient intelligence environments.”[8] A number of other challenges are present that must address the unique qualities of each user of the device, including their “abilities, needs, requirements, and preferences.”[9]

The complexity and challenge of designing a device that can be used for an airport is extensive. The device must take a lot of external factors into consideration, including noise, language barriers, security, and communications interference. It is hoped that improvements in voice synthesis and recognition will help in noisy environments as well as assist those who might not be able to use keyboards or other object manipulation inputs.[10] Additional enhancements will be needed to incorporate the development of an automatic language translation component,[11] which would be imperative in certain situations like an international airport or for during international travel.

A further challenge is to introduce this device into existing information system environment within airport and have it integrate with any number of different system environments. Currently, there is no standardised operating system across global environments. In terms of a device that would be helpful in an airport, there would need to be the “deployment of networks of sensors in closed spaces” that would help with GPS localisation capabilities.[12] Universal access is also a critical issue and challenge because it is vital that these types of devices be affordable and available to all who might need it to compensate for their physical limitations.

Device Capabilities and Benefits

The user of the device can configure it so that the device understands the user’s specific requirements related to their physical disability of blindness. Having this capability will allow the user to make appropriate decisions, feel more confident, and achieve greater independence and social interaction.[13] This is done through a voice recognition system, which is considered a user adaptive interface that allows the user to interact with the device so that it can also verbally navigate the user in the right direction.[14] The device is then used as if it was an electronic guide dog that can help the person by letting them know about “nonfamiliar physical obstacles”[15] as well as provide the proper directions on how to get to the right destination. This device would also interact with other ambient technologies that may incorporate other user adaptive interfaces, such as scent recognition and output and tactile recognition and output[16] that can be used to fulfil other personal needs usually done with one’s physical eyes.

The device is able to overcome some of those external factors found in an airport. It will be a micro-device that the user can conveniently wear in some fashion around their neck or wrist so that they can continue to carry their luggage or belongings but still be guided by a device that can work with an airport information system to guide them through the airport to their appropriate gate or other destination whilst navigating certain objects that are not visible to the sight-impaired person, such as people, baggage, and signs.[17]

The device can integrate multimedia content, including sound and graphics[18] to help those with partial or no sight find their way, with interactive sensorial and motor abilities[19] which allows the device to interact with the travellers as if they were getting help from another human being. In other words, partially sighted or blind travellers will be able to ask the device questions and receive a response that will help them navigate through the airport. It is important that the user interface on this device be as “straightforward and meaningful without the user being overwhelmed by options and menus.”[20]

To address the various information system environments in airports, an environmental-level adaption can be used because it “extends the scope of accessibility to cover potentially all applications running under the same interactive environment rather than a single application.”[21] This will enable the device to run successfully in all environments, thereby reducing some of the insecurity for the user who may be apprehensive about how the device will affect their experiences.

Device Enhancements

As ambient technologies further progress, devices using this technology will be characterised by “increasing ubiquity, mobility and personalization.” The devices could be reconfigured,[22] according to which network the user has come in contact with – at an airport, a store, a bank, etc. This will be important because of the critical need to solve some of the cognitive overload, confusion and frustrations[23] that will result as human beings — visually impaired or otherwise — try and adapt to a new way of interacting with each other and their surrounding environment.

Ambient technologies must also advance in their alignment with other technologies in terms of “miniaturization, low power devices, wireless devices, security and encryption, biosensors and scalability.”[24] Many of these other technologies could hold the answer in terms of advancing the goal of ambient technologies to meld the idea of technology and human interaction into one action. Further research is also being conducted on an open source and standard for networks that will allow for widespread accessibility and adoption of ambient technology devices as well as more effective communication regardless of their location[25] so that these can be used in such public and global places as airports.

As with most technology, there will be many glitches that will need to be overcome. It can be difficult, especially for those who are partially or completely blind, to learn to depend on a device to overcome their physical limitations only to find that it has malfunctions.[26] Therefore, it is imperative that a number of tests be conducted and backup information systems be developed to minimise any technical glitches. Other technical issues related to security and privacy can arise from a device’s network being compromised by viruses and works if there is not great care taken to insure that the networks are not vulnerable to attack.[27] This would involve further research into how numerous protective tactics now in place, such as proxy firewalls and intrusion detection system,[28] can be integrated with ambient technology in devices to keep people safe, especially in public areas where larger networks may be breached.

To further the development of ambient technologies for such devices as an airport device for the blind and partially blind, it is recommended that candidates for the device be involved in the design life cycle and testing phase to ensure that the user interface is capable of delivering on its objective and that the subject using the device feels confident that it will improve their interaction with their external environment.


There is a wide demand for devices like the one developed for use in an airport because there are far-ranging benefits involved in its creation and implementation in the marketplace. However, there are many technology, legal, privacy, and security issues to overcome as well as detailed explanations about these devices so that those who need them the most can quickly feel comfortable with the idea of interacting with technology in a way that also responds to them and their cognitive abilities and limitations.

However, it is clear that as devices come to market, such as the airport-enabled solution, more people will feel comfortable using them to enhance their interaction with others and provide a more independent way of travelling for those who might have felt previously inhibited. Although standardisation can be a slow process, this will provide time to achieve greater enhancements to various devices, such as the airport information and navigation device, so that some of the other challenges can already be solved to make implementation more likely. The growth in this market is explosive and real opportunity will be realised as ambient technology delivers lower cost and user-friendly devices.


Emiliani, P.L. and Stephanidis, C. (2005). Universal access to ambient intelligence environments: opportunities and challenges for people with disabilities. IBM Systems Journal, 605-619. Available from: http://researchweb.watson.ibm.com/journal/sj/443/emiliani.html.

Gill, J., ed. (2008). Ambient intelligence: Paving the way. Cost 219. Available from: http://www.tiresias.org/cost219ter/ambient_intelligence/Ambient_Intelligence.pdf.

Gill, J., ed. (2005). Making life easier: How new telecommunications services could benefit people with disabilities. Cost219. Available from: http://www.tiresias.org/cost219ter/making_life_easier/making_life_easier.pdf.

Raisinghani, M.S., Benoit, A., Ding, J., Gomez, M., Gupta, K., Gusila, V., Power, D., and Schmedding, O. (2004). Ambient intelligence: Changing forms of human-computer interaction and their social implications. Journal of Digital Information. Available from: http://journals.tdl.org/jodi/rt/printerFriendly/jodi-155/147.



[1] Raisinghani et al. 2004: 4.

[2] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 605.

[3] Ibid: 610.

[4] Gill 2008: 8.

[5] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 609.

[6] Gill 2008: 4.

[7] Ibid: 9.

[8] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 60610-611.

[9] Ibid: 616.

[10] Gill 2008: 7.

[11] Ibid: 7.

[12] Ibid: 7.

[13] Gill 2005: 8.

[14] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 615.

[15] Ibid: 616.

[16] Rasinghani et al. 2004: 2.

[17] Gill 2008: 8.

[18] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 606.

[19] Ibid: 606.

[20] Gill 2008: 12.

[21] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 607.

[22] Ibid: 616.

[23] Ibid: 611.

[24] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 616.

[25] Raisinghani et al. 2004: 5.

[26] Emiliani and Stephanidis 2005: 611.

[27] Raisinghani et al. 2004: 2.

[28] Ibid:23.


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