Smartphone magnet sensor protects pedestrians, cyclists

July 08, 2020 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Smartphone magnet sensor protects pedestrians, cyclists
In road traffic, pedestrians and cyclists are regarded as particularly vulnerable road users, as they have no external protection zone. In order to increase their safety, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is developing a novel system to locate people in urban areas.

The new technology determines the position of vehicles in the user's vicinity via an app on the user's smartphone. The app uses the magnetic field sensor integrated in each smartphone to recognise the magnetic field signature of a means of transport and locate the user there.

This makes people visible when they are particularly at risk, such as when getting off the bus. In the future, the technology could support other services in addition to security applications, such as e-ticketing in mass transit.

In order to effectively protect pedestrians and cyclists and warn them of dangers, their positions are to be determined with an accuracy of at least 50 centimeters. To this end, researchers are developing various localisation methods as part of the "Innomob" programme. Innomob is a virtual institute in which scientists from DLR and the French University Gustave Eiffel have joined forces. The aim is to gain a better understanding of mobility behaviour and traffic development and to develop innovative solutions to help shape the transport systems of the future. In the current project, the French research team is working on a pedestrian location system, thus complementing the technology development of DLR scientists to identify the means of transport used.

"The moving metal parts of a vehicle change the earth's magnetic field and form an unmistakable signature. Using these patterns, we can distinguish whether a person is walking, cycling, riding a bus, taking a tram or the underground", explains Dr Estefanía Muñoz Díaz from the DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation. This approach is unique and can be further exploited, as the evaluations of the first practical tests show. In the city centre of Munich and Nantes in France, the navigation experts carried out measurement campaigns lasting several days in winter, together with their French colleagues.

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