June 11, 2020
Twelve Apps Making Cities Accessible to Travelers and Immigrants
contributor: Allison Duane
This article is part of a series by students in the Sustainable Development program at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pensylvania (USA). The articles reveal snapshots of technology that is improving lives in the world’s cities. For more in the series:
Smart cities are becoming ever more apparent and widespread across the globe. Many nations have begun to implement smart innovations into their cities, making them more efficient and effective. Smart innovations take many shapes, but they are often simple, easy to use to solve an issue citizens face everyday.
This article lists key digital innovations used in urban areas to make life easier for short-term visitors and new arrivals. It is of growing importance that cities make themselves more approachable to people of other cultures since immigration and international travel is ever increasing.
|Tarjimly is an app that allows people to volunteer their skills as translators and interpreters to those that need it. The app is targeted towards refugees, asylum-seekers, humanitarian workers, and any others that might need a translator. The platform allows multilingual speakers to volunteer remotely through chats or phone/video calls. It has successfullly helped over 17,000 people with over 9000 volunteers.|
Learn more at: tarjim.ly
Founded: Nov. 2016
|Packpoint is an app available on Apple and Android devices and can be used in nearly every country. Users enter where they are going, the dates, and select the activities they want to do there. Then the app searches the weather for that time period and creates a packing list that can be edited. Users can share the list with other people they are traveling with through other social media outlets or by email.|
Learn more at: packpnt.com
Name: XE Currency
|XE allows tourists to see what their money conversion will be in various countries. It also allows businesses to make international money transfers without fees, and allows tourists and businesses to view current and live exchange rates. Users will be able to save money if they exchange through XE rather than other banks.|
Learn more at: xe.com
Name: SSiSC (Smart Safety in Smart Cities)
Founded: 2017 in Italy
|SSiSC is a system used to collect data from multiple sources, correlate them, define the risk level and quickly alert security forces and/or citizens in case of crisis situations such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks. It is currently implemented in cities in Italy, but is expanding to other cities in other countries in Europe. The system has been able to reduce the amount of time it takes for citizens to be alerted of a threatening situation from 72 minutes to 11 minutes.|
Learn more at: smartcitiesworld.net
Name: Lonely Planet
|This app makes navigating the city easier for tourists, and makes it easier to find things to do and places to go. It shows maps, audio phrasebooks, lists good sight seeing spots, transportation info, dining options, and advice from “on-the-ground” experts. It is in operation in over 8,000 cities.|
Learn more at: lonelyplanet.com
Name: Mimo Monitors
|Various types of tablets and screens are implemented throughout the city which serve various purposes, including: emergency warnings, updates and advertising to city-goers, providing an easier way to pay, and providing directions so that citizens are more informed. More and more cities and companies are beginning to use technology like this. It currently operates in cities around the world with distributors in Canada, Latin America, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, etc.|
Learn more at: mimomonitors.com
Name: AI Smart Rooms developed by Baidu’s DuerOS Platform
|Hotel guests can use voice commands to change the room settings (lights, music, temperature, etc.) for a more human-like interaction. This makes hotel management an easier task, and allows visitors’ wants to be satisfied faster. It is currently in use in InterContinental Hotels in Beijing and Guangzhou.|
Learn more at: marketing-interactive.com
|ChatBotlr is being used in Marriott International’s Aloft Hotels, and serves as a robotic butler that will respond to customer’s needs faster. Through a customer’s smartphone, they can request toiletries delivered to their rooms, request a wake up call, or ask questions about hotel amenities.|
Two out of three guests have been using the service, and ChatBotlr has a five second response time. It overcomes the language barrier between the guest and the hotel personnel by translating their conversation over text.
Learn more at: trilyo.com
Name: Delta RFID Luggage Tags (App)
|Delta Airlines uses this app in 84 airports in the US to combat their passenger’s issue of losing their luggage. The RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) allows the passenger to track where their luggage is on their phone. Using a map view, the passenger can keep track of their bag for the whole journey. It has led to a 10% decrease in lost luggage.|
Learn more at: news.delta.com
Founded: 2013 as website, 2019 as an app
|FindHello is run by USAHello which is an online source available to help immigrants, refugees and others integrate into their new community in the US. The app and website provides various resources for users such as career opportunities, housing services, and citizenship/immigration services. The app is available in multiple languages. FindHello has partnered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and has been very successful in making people feel safe and comfortable in their new community.|
Learn more at: usahello.org
Name: Octopus Cards Limited
Founded: 1997 in Hong Kong (renamed in 2002)
|Octopus Cards Limited started as a contactless smart card that provided an easier way to pay for public transport, but expanded its use to stores and other sectors. It makes it easier for travelers, so that they don’t have to look for exact change. It began in Hong Kong and is now successfully exported to the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Dubai.|
Learn more at: octopus.com
Name: VRoom Service
|Currently VRoom Service is available in NYC and London (by Marriott hotels).|
So, a person can either go to a location in NYC and London or request to loan a headset for 24 hrs. Then, they are able to pick a location of the VR Postcard and experience 3D, 360 degree experiences and follow along to a story of someone who traveled there. It allows users to “experience” another country, and will lead to more travel.
What it Means: Accessibility
All of these innovations, along with many more have been implemented to make citizen’s lives, and visitor’s lives easier. Allowing quicker access to information, data, and comfort. Innovations like these make cities smarter and more accessible to people all over the world.
About the Author
Allison Duane is a student at Lehigh University studying International Relations and Economics, and minoring in Spanish.