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City mobility apps trialled to fight Blue Badge fraud across Europe

A three-year pan-European project to improve urban transportation for mobility impaired citizens – featuring a smartphone-based parking card to stop fraud – is drawing to a close and preparing recommendations for the European Commission.

The aim of the SIMON project is to increase independent living for people in cities with mobility impairments. Two mobile apps were developed as part of the process: an ‘ICT-enhanced parking card’ for drivers, and a journey-planning app.

The parking card is effectively an updated version of the current European-approved Blue Badge held by drivers with disabilities.

Illegal copying of Blue Badges has become a problem in recent years, and the SIMON parking card aims to eliminate this by using contactless technology. The new card features a chip and QR code that connect to a mobile app, meaning that parking enforcement staff can scan the card from outside the vehicle and check the identity of the card owner, preventing misuse and fraud.

The mobile app allows citizens to plan accessible journeys across a city, based on their needs. Routes can be adapted to suit wheelchair-users, people with visual impairments, and different walking speeds. For example, the app can tell users about wheelchair ramps at metro and subway stations, or where to find disabled parking spaces.

An ‘international consortium’ of nine partners across five countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and the UK) are taking part in the project, with large-scale pilots in Madrid, Parma, Lisbon and Reading. At the moment, the SIMON mobile app (available to download for free on iOS and Android) is only usable in these four pilot cities

Planned as a three-year scheme, SIMON finishes at the end of March, and project leaders are drawing up conclusions from the work. The mobile app will continue to be available to download and use after SIMON ends. The project team are encouraging people in the pilot cities to continue using the app and leaving feedback on how it can be improved.

SIMON Project Manager Eva Muñoz Navarro told e-Access Bulletin about some of the key findings and conclusions: “We have found out how useful it is to have the end-users [older and disabled citizens] as part of the design process. We have also realised that even if the ICT parking card is welcome and everybody is happy to have a fraud-fighting tool, not everybody is used to mobile apps and technology – particularly the elderly.”

The last phases of the project include drawing up guidelines on how SIMON can be used elsewhere. Navarro said that the team is already working with other cities in Europe interested in using the SIMON platform to make their mobility systems more inclusive.

The project team are also preparing a recommendation for the European Commission to explain how the current parking card for mobility impaired drivers could be adapted, using the increased security measures trialled during SIMON. Navarro said: “The European Commission might decide to update the current recommendation, from 1998, and to consider the possibility of modernising the parking card based on SIMON proposals.”

Find out more about SIMON at the project website, including links to download the mobile app:
http://eab.li/4k .

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