Massive advances in technology – and data science to support AI – are making it increasingly possible to blend reality (the physical) with the digital realm. This has led to the term “phygital”.
Although commonly used for industry, marketing, and retail activities, it also underpins some practical community-based solutions within smart cities.
In smart cities, change is activated by bringing together local authorities, the business community (especially SMEs) and community partners, as well as local people. The overarching goal is then to make the urban area a better place to live and work, and to protect and improve the local environment.
Data that drives change
As expected in the age of Big Data and the Internet of Things, smart city technologies are driven by vast amounts of relevant local information. Generating this pool of relevant data relies on the public and private sector sharing their resources and data collection tools.
Through using the data to provide practical solutions within the local area, phygital activities support smart cities.
Improving accessibility and mobility
A smart city goal is often to make urban areas more accessible, inclusive, and supportive. Phygital concepts can play a key role in making this a reality.
One of the earliest forms of phygital adaptations was information communication technologies (ICTs) for destinations. An example here are smart tourism apps that enhance the visitor experience, but which also collate new data on tourist behaviour and decision-making.
Using pooled data, AI-driven software and strategically located sensors and apps can be used to help local people move around urban landscapes safely and confidently. It is also helpful for people with disabilities, who often struggle with limitations in opportunity, mobility, and access to information.
Through phygital, people with disabilities can have easy and sustainable access to physical space such as buildings, parks, elevators, and facilities. For instance, it could provide a clear list of accessible locations for people in wheelchairs and similarly guide those with visual impairments around a building or shared space.
Phygital developments also grant inclusive access to information and opportunities like jobs, community work, and social activities that are accessible for people with disabilities.
As such, the phygital approach not only provides inclusive and easy access to places and information but also acts as a platform for PWDs to share their voices on social and economic issues and participate in ameliorating the policies that affect their daily lives.
All things considered, through phygital projects, technologies are instant, connected, engaging, and inclusive. Solutions meet an instant physical need by connecting people to data and engaging them in a more intuitive action that is available and accessible for everyone.
The possibilities are limitless.