In this article we tell the story of one of us and his idea that was born from the awareness of how important it is for a visually impaired or blind person to move around the complex urban environment and do it with adequate safety. Marino Attini, severely visually impaired, president of the UICI section of Trieste in the last legislature and today a member of the National Direction, thanks to his visual residue, has been accompanying other blind members for many years and has thus been able to understand what the actual difficulties may be in moving around a complex environment such as the urban one and how this situation could be facilitated. Thanks to his long experience in the world of information technology and electronics, he decided to write a project thinking that today electronics are ripe to integrate into the traditional white stick, the one we usually use, but without affecting it, as often happened up to today, neither ergonomics nor weight, this being the most important aid for a blind person as well as a precision instrument. Marino wrote this document for the sole purpose of making it available to those wishing to make an ethical development of it, by patenting it, but without any other purpose because it is dedicated to the memory of his wife Letizia, who unfortunately passed away prematurely and for this reason the only thing he has asked is to call it LETIsmart, to combine the name of his wife with the concept of a smart city where there must be information, but above all interaction between the citizen and the city and without distinctions and limitations.
One day the hope of being able to see his dream come true is transformed into reality thanks to the interest of an important company that works precisely in electronic prototyping and miniaturization called SCEN which carries it out as an ethical project and which is located in its city, Trieste. At this point, Marino immediately involves UICI and through Irifor a close collaboration starts for a project that wants to belong to all those who will have to use it and that for years has continuously seen a group of testers modeling and improving its efficiency.
We will now tell you the chronology of this which today is an appreciated solution chosen by UICI to make it a common factor throughout the territory.
The development of the project took place in Trieste, in synergy with UICI, Trieste Trasporti and the Municipality of Trieste, creating an important collaboration in order to create the first smart city equipped with this new technology.
In 2016, SCEN produced the first prototypes of the LETIsmart LIGHT and VOCE which are presented, together with the aims of the project, to Trieste Trasporti, which immediately joined the experimentation with the commitment to install radio beacons on all approximately 280 public transport vehicles. At the same time, the Municipality of Trieste makes itself available for the study of special radio beacons to be applied to assisted traffic lights and public lighting.
In 2017, LETIsmart LUCE was officially presented and at the beginning of 2018 it will be distributed in all Italian offices of the UICI and available for purchase to the public.
In 2018 an agreement was signed with La Semaforica for the study of a version of the LETIsmart radio beacon to be inserted in the call buttons on the traffic lights that mount the acoustic signaling system for the blind. In April LETIsmart LUCE receives the gold medal from the regional council of associations of disabled people in Friuli Venezia Giulia and in October this project wins the first prize at the prestigious Make To Care competition, organized annually by Sanofy (one of the most important pharmaceutical companies in the world ) it is an award dedicated to all that in the health field brings innovation to help people.
In 2019, the experimentation and certification of radio beacons for public transport was successfully completed and about 300 Trieste Trasporti buses were equipped. A few months later, La Semaforica and SCEN certify the devices to be included in the traffic light systems as well as other additions for traffic regulation. In July the Pizzimenti regional councilor for transport calls a press conference jointly with Trieste Trasporti to officially announce the adoption of the system by the local public service of Trieste. In September 2019 the Municipality of Trieste presents LETIsmart during the European mobility week and two Lions clubs of Trieste, together with 58 clubs in the 108TA2 district, announce the financing for the purchase of about 200 traffic light radio beacons to equip the entire urban area of Trieste and the Casali foundation offers a considerable amount to facilitate the supply of devices to blind and partially sighted users.
In 2020, on the occasion of the traveling caravan for the celebration of the Centenary, UICI places Trieste among the cities chosen as stops on the tour, on this prestigious occasion we would like to announce the adoption of the LETIsmart system. Unfortunately, due to Covid, everything is canceled, but in July 2020, at the prestigious blue lounge of the mayor, the same mayor Di Piazza announces the adoption of the LETIsmart system to the citizens and shortly after about 30 people, blind and visually impaired, begin to move independently through the city streets with the help of their LETIsmart VOCE device, which is given to them, making it easier for them to take public transport and traffic light crossings. A test phase which today ended with complete success is carefully monitored. At the end of 2020, the other three regional capitals will also equip public transport with LETIsmart radio beacons. People are trained for a project for the diffusion of radio beacons on commercial establishments that from 2021 will promote the adoption of this service with an annual rental solution of the radio beacon that will indicate the name and type of the business to the blind, allowing them to access it autonomously , the proceeds will be entirely donated to the regional sections of the UICI.
In January 2021, the Friuli Venezia Giulia region stipulates, together with TPL, regional UICI and the regional disability council, a project for the installation of radio beacons on all extra-urban public transport in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Now the system is spreading with the prospect of bringing it to most Italian municipalities.
Since the end of 2020, the creator Marino Attini is part of the 8 members of the National Direction of UICI to coordinate everything concerning new technologies, he is also part of the Board of Directors of INVAT, the National Institute for the Evaluation and Validation of Aids and Technologies.
But how does LETIsmart work?
It is a microelectronics solution that can be integrated into the most popular white cane models without affecting either ergonomics or weight, offering the possibility of improving one’s safety with two distinct solutions: the LUCE kit which replaces the tubular segment near the tip with a luminescent tubular that lights up automatically when there are poor or nonexistent light conditions, and the VOCE kit that replaces the stick handle with an almost identical one that integrates a sophisticated electronic circuit, highly miniaturized, from the weight of only 8.5 grams, which allows the blind to receive vocal information, accompanied by vibration pulses, also offering the possibility of interacting with the territory through a system of radio beacons equipped with an acoustic signal. Precisely this is the main feature that allows the user to identify a traffic light, the entrance of a public transport or a commercial establishment, thanks to a customized acoustic signal that is activated exactly at the point of destination providing precision that with other systems, such as GPS, is not obtainable. This is possible thanks to a network of radio beacons that communicate independently with a newly adopted radio system called LORA and approved by all European countries (868MHz), Australia and North America (865MHz), India (867Mhz) and Asia (923MHz). A system which, unlike Bluetooth, which has been widely used until now, allows greater coverage and intelligent interaction between multiple devices.
The LETIsmart system has been developed in different versions in order to satisfy the absolute blind, whether they use only the white cane or accompanied by a guide dog, partially blind, partially sighted and motor disabled.
This solution has obtained the most important electronic certifications and approvals and has been officially adopted by La Semaforica which has integrated it into the call buttons installed on the traffic light poles to facilitate their identification, or to activate them remotely.
The LETIsmart system has been Automotive certified and has been integrated into public transport in various urban centers to the great satisfaction of users and on-board personnel who promptly receive information on the presence of a disabled person at the next stop. This solution was chosen and included, as the only hardware solution for the disabled, in the latest public transport guidelines document issued by AASTRA, an important Italian consortium that groups together most of the public transport companies.
Like all so-called “open systems” LETIsmart grows on the needs of the blind and visually impaired and for this reason the creator has strongly wanted that the project is always put in common with all users and the SCEN team of developers is constantly in synergy with UICI with the aim that this aid can truly be a concrete help for our autonomy.
We invite you now to visit the website where you will find all the information, technical data, and videos with audio description that illustrate the project while it is being used by our partners in Trieste.