Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FreeWheel (Lifecycle-reconfigurable Smart Mobility Platform to enable autonomous and cost-effective personalized solutions for social inclusion of disabled and elderly while leveraging AM technologies)

Summary
About 6.25 billion people, 15 per cent of which persons with disabilities, are predicted to be living in urban centres by 2050. Urbanization has the potential to be a great engineer for achieving sustainable and inclusive development for all. The current lack of environmental...

Summary

About 6.25 billion people, 15 per cent of which persons with disabilities, are predicted to be living in urban centres by 2050. Urbanization has the potential to be a great engineer for achieving sustainable and inclusive development for all. The current lack of environmental accessibility faced by people with disabilities in particular in many cities in the world presents both a major challenge and strategic opportunity to promote an accessible and inclusive Urban Agenda [1].
The persons with disabilities (developing, acquiring or temporary) must often deal with limiting situations or with various types of barriers (architectural, cultural, mental, etc.) that do not facilitate the autonomy, self-determination and social participation.
The social problem of accessibility for disabled and elderly includes:
? physical access to vehicles and transportation systems
? information useable by everyone
? training of transport staff to understand their needs
? design and layout of urban areas to enable people to move safely and confidently.
The whole mobility chain must be considered:
? Disabled and elder people can only make a journey if all the links in the chain are accessible from door to door.
? Disabled and elder people are most likely to move autonomously, without having access to public transportation systems, for significant distances, despite their difficulties. Both lack of accessibility and cost are exacerbating this problem.
Recent relevant research in this area demonstrated the feasibility of several new solutions for autonomous mobility of disabled, developed basing on State of The Art technology. Nevertheless, the potential for new solutions is limited by the very high cost of the devices and by the fragmentation of the market due to the need of customised and personalised solution, required to cope with so many different disabilities and infrastructural barriers. For this reason, the wheelchair product is usually handcrafted, with weak potential of industrialisation and risky return on investment in technological innovation.
Concurrently, cities and urban contexts are evolving to become smart and connected, resembling the model of a system of interconnected systems, including employment, health care, retail/entertainment, public services, residences, energy distribution, and not least, transportation. The system of systems is tied together by information and communications technologies (ICT) that transmit and process data about all sorts of activities within the city. Smart mobility and vehicle sharing services - where vehicles, travellers, and infrastructure communicate with each other through various data streams - are recognized as instrumental for sustainable development.

FreeWheel promotes social inclusion of disabled and elderly people with motion impairment through a mobility solution that increases accessibility of indoor and outdoor locations.
The FreeWheel solution consists of a motorisation unit integrating an autonomous ?smart active? module which can be connected to existing wheelchairs by customised parts built on demand, leveraging Additive Manufacturing technologies, and an app, delivering a suite of functionalities to manage the use of the unit according to the needs of the user.

Work Performed

The activities in the first eighteen months of the project have focused on the definition of the requirements of the users, approaching the design of the solution (hardware and software) through co-creation. Through Work Package 2, the target end users have been identified in terms of categories of disabled people the solution can be suitable for; furthermore, through focused interviews, archetype users have been identified to understand the expectations from a solution improving their mobility. At the same time, the FreeWheel solution has been explored from the point of view of the users' journey through the experience, to identify touch points and features the solution needs to include to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction. The technical objectives of the project have been reviewed to match the finding of the co-creation of the solution.

The results of WP2, together with the analysis of the existing wheelchairs motorising solutions and a review of the capabilities of the Additive Manufacturing and 3DPrinting technologies commercially available and under development, have influenced the definition of the features of the hardware solution, which is the main result of Work Package 3. The activities of this work package have started by studying the characteristics of the motion mechanism of the wheelchairs to identify the different motorisation solutions (e.g. device mounted frontally or on the wheels), while considering with the users the potential effects on the vehicle and its safety. At the same time, a first analysis of the capabilities of the additive technologies available within the consortium has been conducted to consider the feasibility and the design details suitable for additive manufacturing. The system of sensors required to enable control of the motor and autonomous navigation, amongst other features, has been defined.

Results

The co-creation approach paves the way to the development of a mobility solution which meets the expectations of the users. The project has experimented the translation of such expectations into technical and social objectives that integrate the KPIs on performance of the solution.

The project is on course to deliver its expected results:
1) A TRL6 mobility solution composed of:
- A new TRL6 product, i.e. an autonomous individual unit.
- A new TRL6 ICT mobility platform accessible through smartphone.
2) Two product/service DEMOs in a shopping centre and heritage cultural site to demonstrate the functionalities of the mobility solution.
3) A manufacturing DEMO to demonstrate the use of Additive Manufacturing technologies integrating innovative AM based processes with traditional working methods as well as the use of various materials including composites, from ultra-light smart materials to composites (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic, Techno Polymers, Aluminium Alloys, High Strength Steel, Titanium). In this demo, innovative machinery developed at TRL5-6 in past and running projects will be tested to exploit their potential in further application. The proposers are able to access the Additive Manufacturing machines and modules resulting at the end of H2020 BOREALIS, SYMBIONICA and 4D.


The expected impacts are:
- Social inclusion of mobility impaired citizens: the project will demonstrate affordability and safety in accessing public spaces in urban areas;
- Short time to market: significant reduction of leadtime from design to delivery of a mobility unit
- Low cost: significant cost reduction in the manufacturing of a motorisation unit as a result of the re-usability and adaptability of personalised products components;
- Ultra-low environmental impact: re-usability of modules and efficient manufacturing leading to significant environmental impact reduction regarding primary resources consumed while offering this mobility service.
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