How can you as a future citizen make a contribution?

Everyone has probably found themselves in the following situation: You are on your way to your job in a larger city. A typical day begins in the early hours of the morning with stress and a resulting bad mood. The reason is obvious. Urbanization and centralization make traveling by car an ordeal. Traffic jams and slow progress in stop-and-go mode will make you burn out. But that's not all: To reduce stress, you want to go on a relaxed bike ride after work. But this is peppered with obstacles that make your stress level rise rather than fall. Damaged and missing bike paths significantly limit your driving pleasure. But what can you do to improve the situation? How can the residents of cities even make their contribution so that the infrastructure can be improved or expanded accordingly in order to simplify the integration of sustainable mobility?

Simplicity and transparency are the key

Apps are our constant companion these days. For every situation there is a little digital helper that enriches our lives. This can also be used for the problem just mentioned. The GPS module contained in the smartphone creates the breeding ground for the collection of important information about the concerns of residents in urban areas.

One solution is a smartphone application developed by us at Fraunhofer IAO, which was designed as part of the joint project NUMIC (New Urban Mobility Consciousness in Chemnitz) together with TU Dresden, TU Chemnitz, innosabi GmbH and the city of Chemnitz. This enables you to transparently communicate deficiencies in the infrastructure using the example of the city of Chemnitz. This gives citizens the opportunity to participate themselves, to identify urban development measures in favor of the residents and to promote the use of sustainable mobility. The launch of the app is planned for mid-October 2020 and is currently only offered for the city of Chemnitz. The app is currently still in the first release phase and has already been tested by a selected group of users with very good feedback. The structure and operation of the app are very simple and clear (see Figure 1), so that even older people can easily express their opinion on the current infrastructure.


Figure 1: Smartphone application with the selection menu. (Source: own illustration)

 

But what exactly happens to the data? The users decide for themselves whether they want to make the collected information available for further processing or whether they only want to use it for private purposes. The high level of transparency and integrated anonymity also increase the willingness to use it.

Creating added value for the user

In order to increase the acceptance of a smartphone application, the needs and wishes of the users must be addressed. An app that on the one hand enables GPS tracking with status reports, but at the same time provides numerous functions that offer added value for the user, increases acceptance among the city's residents. In the case of Chemnitz, for example, the app can

  • Current news of the city,
  • Weather reports,
  • CO2 calculator,
  • Construction news and
  • City notices

can be accessed. The actual main function, the creation of a travel diary to show optimization potential, is just that
“The icing on the cake” (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: Path covered with information on the infrastructure used. (Source: own illustration)

 

Actively helping to shape the city of the future

The fact is that the cities of the future will differ significantly from today's orientation in terms of mobility. Buzzwords such as the electrification of shuttle buses and the provision of sharing offers are rampant in the media. The only question is, where are these technologies actually used by people?

The city of Chemnitz is taking a big step by using the presented app to answer this question for the good of the citizens. The NUMIC project aims to activate as many Chemnitz residents as possible for the project. These can actively contribute to improving the situation by simply recording everyday routes on their smartphones and making them available for evaluation when the opportunity arises. The results of the evaluation are transparently shared with the community.

If you would like to find out more about the NUMIC project and the use of the smartphone application, you will find further information on the project website numic.city. There you will find news about the release of the app as well as future events relating to the project. You can also see here: In order to design a smartphone application successfully, people must play a key role and be included in the development process. That is why we would like to cordially invite you to become a part of the NUMIC project!

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Fabian Schirmer

Fabian Schirmer is a research assistant at the KEIM application center, the competence center for energy and information technology mobility interfaces. The focus is on topics such as sustainable mobility and future locomotion. It is exciting and interesting for him to actively participate in the topics of the future.

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