How smart navigation technology is adding a layer of humanity to cities

Smart navigation technology is making cities and neighbourhoods more ‘human’, healthy and user-centric. Here are some of the opportunities on the horizon.

Imagine if the cities of tomorrow could measure human wellness, encourage us to stretch, nudge us towards better habits, or lift our mood? What if they could alleviate loneliness and improve our mental health?

There’s a growing push to move from ‘smart cities’ to ‘human cities’ – cities that enhance the health, happiness and wellbeing of citizens. A new wave of technology companies are adding a layer of humanity to built environments in new and exciting ways, redefining what it means to be ‘smart’.

At PAM, we believe ‘human cities’ of tomorrow will embrace smart navigation technology that delivers the following benefits.

Connected, personalized experiences

The things that make dense urban environments so great – creativity, novelty, diversity – are only possible when you bring people together. After a year of lockdowns and a growing loneliness epidemic, face-to-face interactions have never been more important.

To recover from COVID lockdowns, EY believes Central Business Districts must become ‘central experience districts’.  Respondents to an EY survey in Australia said they want their CBD to be a destination that offers more than just workplaces: “They are looking for a variety of experiences – relaxation and dining, fashion and culture. Ultimately, people want their CBD to be a place that meets their essential human desire to connect.”

Likewise, Gensler is encouraging developers to think about ‘experience per square foot’ versus ‘profit per square foot’. By delivering incredible, personalized experiences, cities become so much more than buildings and infrastructure. They are places for connection, joy, and unexpected encounters.

It’s the reason we have devoted so much time to creating PAM – the world’s first smart navigation technology and customer experience platform, which exists to connect people to what they love. PAM is being used by places all over the world to activate spaces and bring them to life. Atmosphere, crowds, exhilaration, novelty – that’s what makes the best places, in our eyes.

Accessible places for all

Many cities lack social cohesion and struggle with accessibility. In 2016, Smart Cities for All surveyed more than 250 experts and found a majority believe today’s smart cities are failing persons with disabilities because “technology solutions are not designed to be accessible and inclusive”. This is not a niche challenge: globally, 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment, according to the WHO.

This is another focus at PAM. Our software is used to enhance the inclusivity and accessibility of built environments. It can be used to create 3D maps that highlight accessible routes, or to provide text-to-speech and language translations on digital signage – two simple examples of the power of smart navigation technology to create more welcoming and inclusive spaces.

Healthy, meaningful places

Smart navigation technology also helps to create healthy environments where walking is encouraged. Tourist trails and pedestrian routes are clearly signposted, and social bonds are enhanced. Giving pedestrians the power to know the best routes through a city and what to find along the way encourages them to walk and enjoy every element of the city, which can be otherwise an intimidating unknown best skipped by taking a car or public transport option. By encouraging people to stay active and connected, built environments can significantly improve our physical and mental health.

 At PAM, we are helping venues to use digital screens and touchpoints to tell more meaningful stories about places, or to create two-way dialogues between venue owners and visitors. When visitors can better understand their environment, and their environment can better understand them, places become more meaningful, pleasurable and loved.

A safe & certain world

Tomorrow’s ‘human cities’ will also provide a sense of safety, certainty and security. Navigation software has an important role to play, reducing the anxiety of getting lost by directing people away from bottlenecks and towards the safest routes. 

This technology keeps people moving with live traffic updates, dynamic maps and routes, or by sending live updates to people’s mobile devices in times of emergency. Reducing traffic, making streets safer and less congested, guiding people to the safest and best-lit routes – these are all vital drivers of quality of life. 

If wellbeing is a new focus for city makers, where should you start?

When choosing smart navigation technology vendors, try to choose companies that put people at the heart of their solutions to deliver connected, social experiences. Gensler suggests asking, “What needs will the technology fulfill? How will users engage with it?” while MIT’s Senseable City Lab warns against overly planned built environments: leave room for adaptation and exploration.

Making places ‘smart’ means more than using data and sensors. It’s about improving quality of life, and we’re seeing a wave of innovation worldwide. When buildings are designed as experiences, supported with smart navigation technology, they can bring people together in new and exciting ways.

Change is definitely going to happen. So be prepared for it.  Let’s work together to make your space a much-loved ‘human’ place.

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