Space Technologies Hackathon Yields Autism App
Using space technologies to develop an app to give people with autism more independence.
The University of Padua, Italy
In 2018 the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GNSS) hosted its second successive Space For Your App hackathon, an open innovation contest for developers, coders, data scientists and others to promote their skills and learn how space technologies can turn their ideas into reality.
Participants were tasked with developing applications in a choice of areas such as smart mobility, geo-marketing, mapping, fitness and social networks. They were supplied with an API (application programming interface) provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) that gave access to Earth Observation Data, in particular from the Copernicus program. This is the European Union’s Earth observation program which provides accurate and timely information to mitigate the effects of climate change, improve the management of the environment and ensure civil security.
Hackers also had use of GNSS raw measurements and Galileo-enabled hardware that provides global positioning, navigation and timing information.
The overall winners were a team from the University of Padua, Italy for LetMeAut, an application that leverages Galileo’s high accuracy positioning to help make everyday tasks easier for people with autism.
The modern urban environment with its overload of sensory stimuli can make activities such as going to the shops or walking in the park extremely difficult and daunting for people with an autism diagnosis. While there are already many apps to help those on the autism spectrum to achieve daily tasks, they do not afford them the possibility of moving autonomously outside.
In Italy, more than half a million people have ASD which can put a strain on the health system. This prompted the winning team to develop an app to help individuals enjoy more autonomy.
LetMeAut uses precise positioning and inputs such as heart rate sensors and Inertial Measurement Units to monitor people with ASD as they go about their daily tasks such as walking through a downtown shopping precinct. The technology allows caregivers to monitor progress remotely and removes the need for them to be in attendance 24/7. Further developments using machine learning and deep learning should enable the system to recognize falls, panic attacks or other unexpected behaviors.
Leveraging Space Technology
“Galileo is a key component of the application,” said team member Cristina Gava. “First of all, there is the speed of time to first fix, which is much faster than with GPS alone. This is important, as the app needs to respond quickly.
“Secondly, but no less important, is the high accuracy that Galileo offers – if the app is to provide meaningful information on what actions the user should take, then it needs to know exactly what side of the street they are on, for example. Galileo provides this accuracy, especially in urban environments.”
Following the open innovation competition, the winning team continued developing their app and looked at how it could be extended to other disabilities by integration with smart cities and the Internet of Things.
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