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Podcast With A Blindness Perspective.

Jul 22, 2019

While at the NFB2019 Convention Jeff Thompson met up with RTB Safe Traffic Director of Sales, Olivia Harden. Interested in the sounds stemming from the RTB Safe Traffic booth, Jeff inquired about the Audio Pedestrian Signal device and Olivia filled his cup to the brim with some great information.

Full Transcript Below

She is very passionate about her work and the products RTB Safe Traffic are creating and has taken the message across the States to all the Department of Transportation personnel to educate them on the practicalities of installing and needs for audio pedestrian signals. Not just to push her line of product, but to bring awareness and value to the decision making by people who make the decisions for safe traffic crossings.

You can find out more about RTB Safe Traffic on the web at www.RTBSafeTraffic.com.

And be sure to voice your concerns and needs in your city, your county, about having RTB Safe Traffic educating your department of transportation.

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Full Transcript

 

Creating Safe Traffic Crossings with Audio Pedestrian Signals – RTB Safe Traffic is Crossing that Road for All of Us. #NFB19

 

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson. While in attendance at the National Federation of the Blind Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada 2019, I was in the exhibit hall and I met up with Olivia Harden and she is from RTB Safe Traffic. They do audio pedestrian signals, and these are what you install at crossings so that you can audibly hear what the location of them and the timing when to step off the curb.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I thought it was really neat device and I like her approach. She spends 80% of her time talking to the Department of Transportation in cities across the United States, educating the personnel on why an audio pedestrian signal is needed and how it helps and assists more than just the visually impaired, but everyday people navigating traffic crossings.

 

Olivia Harden:
I'm Olivia Harden. I'm the director of sales for RTB safe Traffic and we are a manufacturer of pedestrian push buttons and acoustic units. And we're really approaching this market quite differently by actually looking at accessibility as a whole. And we're really tackling some main challenges. First of all, we really believe in ease of activation of the ped button. We utilize sensor technology that allows persons to activate the button with any part of their body. If you're traveling with a cane in one hand and shopping in another, you can just lean against the button and it will activate through your clothing or you can activate with your hip or the back of your hand.

 

Olivia Harden:
Secondly, we really believe in providing true directional information and that's done by having an arrow that's located under the button where as we know a lot of intersections are not beautifully perpendicular, so we can actually rotate that arrow 360 degrees so that if a crosswalk is on an angle, we can actually place the arrow on an angle and give you true directional information.

 

Olivia Harden:
And the final thing is, we really try and tackle the issue that we're facing in the community where these systems have been deployed. Existing technology is quite noise polluting, and as a result, residents are not living in harmony with these systems and they're complaining to the cities. What we're typically seeing is traffic technicians are going and turning them down, which really strips the integrity out of these systems and defeats the whole point of them being deployed in the first place.

 

Olivia Harden:
The first thing we tackle is how do we manage volume controls of the locator tone? Which is really critical for finding the pole. We've got a smartphone app that you can download for free on your phone. All you need to do is activate it and then put your phone away in your pocket. And then within 10 meters of approaching a pole that has our equipment on it, we will automatically detect you and immediately turn the locator volume up to the volume that you should have had in the first place, giving you 100% integrity every time, you approach an intersection.

 

Olivia Harden:
And the final thing is, we utilize a beacon that's located up a pole. A lot of manufacturers now are building the loud speaker and the microphone into the push button and deploying it at push button height, which basically means that if pedestrians are surrounding the pole, it's actually covering and masking the audible signal. We believe in having a beacon that's located up a pole that points into the crosswalk for actual true beaconing and we actually control the sound waves by utilizing three speakers in a horizontal row.

 

Speaker 3:
And what that does is create a forward penetrating sound vortex into the crosswalk. Existing infrastructure does 360-degree orientation of the acoustics, which means that for a walk guide signal, it's just blasting sound waves all the way through an intersection. And what we're actually doing is we're actually creating a very strong forward penetrating stream of sound waves so that you're not just hearing noise over there. You can actually get a very acute alignment and orientation to the pole and it also mitigates a lot of the sound pollution that's affecting residents and causing these systems to be turned down.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's really neat that it's really focused like that because that could be a concern to people dining or something around an intersection or something.

 

Olivia Harden:
Absolutely. We're really tackling the root issues with very, very strong design and technology. And we've come up with this because our company owner was an O and M in the 80s, obviously training his clients with existing infrastructure at the time was very difficult. He partnered with the German Blind Association and his clients to create the system that we have today. And our Look ID smartphone app was actually designed through a research project that was done with the University of Hamburg in Germany in collaboration with the German Blind Association. Everything that we have here has been designed fully by advocates in the community as well as the German Blind Association that has firsthand knowledge of the challenges that this community faces with complex navigation issues of traffic intersections.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well I think this is really great technology and it's something that's needed and you've been traveling around to all the departments of transportation advocating for this.

 

Olivia Harden:
That's right. I would say 80% of my job currently is going around meeting with traffic engineers that are responsible for designing these intersections, as well as traffic technicians that are responsible for the procurement and deployment of these systems. And I'm not going in for an hour talking about why my product's better than the others. I'm actually taking the opportunity to discuss exactly how this community navigates complex intersections, the challenges that you're facing and how we as manufacturers can do better by creating smarter technology to make this easier and to remove the anxieties.

 

Olivia Harden:
And I really do this because I believe that the only way we can change the current situation is by invoking empathy and compassion with these traffic technicians that are responsible for deploying massive traffic intersections and they're just looking at audible signals as just another thing to tick off their list. But I'm going in and saying, "No, when you actually deploy these systems or when you think about procuring them, we need to be finding solutions that are really tackling these major challenges that are still existing with current infrastructure."

 

Jeff Thompson:
I thought what was really neat is when they employ these, they can actually monitor them from headquarters basically.

 

Olivia Harden:
That's right. If they do go down for whatever reason, say a car runs into a pole and we lose a button and acoustic unit it will actually send an alert back to the central office and actually tell a city and that's a huge part of maintenance issues. I'm sure there have been many situations. I've had a lot of advocates yesterday telling me that they've gone to intersections and buttons don't work. This is just further technology that helps aid cities in being able to maintain these systems that might be deployed all over their city.

 

Jeff Thompson:
They would know in real time when something's wrong.

 

Olivia Harden:
Exactly. It will send them an alert by email and they might integrate them into their current monitoring systems and they might get a red alert on their traffic screen.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Could we get some sound from it right now?

 

Olivia Harden:
Sure. I'll just plug this in for you. You currently hear the locator tone and then I will activate the audible signal.

 

Speaker 3:
Wait.

 

Olivia Harden:
It's just running through a cycle right now and then I'll activate again.

 

Speaker 3:
Wait.

 

Olivia Harden:
The audible signal will go off soon.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Then you can cross.

 

Olivia Harden:
This is the walk guide signal to tell you when you can step off the curb.

 

Speaker 3:
Two, one.

 

Olivia Harden:
And this particular countdown is the audible countdown that sighted persons see in the clearance phase. We would be seeing numbers that would count down anywhere from 30 downwards and we are actually doing an audible version of that.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Some departments of transportations and counties or cities could actually have one of these installed for a needs base.

 

Olivia Harden:
Absolutely. We're typically throughout America, seeing these being deployed on a needs case basis. Obviously members in the community might put in a request, they send someone out to evaluate the intersection and determine whether this is an intersection that needs this system. And then they have to obviously find budget to be able to do it. But we're typically seeing them being deployed on a needs case basis. We have some state departments like Virginia Department of Transportation have now created a rule that for any new construction, so any new intersection that's being deployed, these are automatically included in the design. And so they actually get deployed from the get go on a new construction intersection.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well that's really interesting. This is really good stuff. Sorry, can you tell people where they can find out more information?

 

Olivia Harden:
Yeah, so we have a website. It's www.rtb, that's Roger, Tango, Bravo, safetraffic.com. My name's Olivia Harden. I will also be available by email at sales@rtbsafetraffic.com.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Thank you very much and I'll get this out to everybody and you have a wonderful convention.

 

Olivia Harden:
Thank you. Thank you so much for your time.

 

Jeff Thompson:
It was a great time meeting up with Olivia and hear about RTB Safe Traffic and her work with audio pedestrian signals. And if you want to find out more about RTB Safe Traffic, check them out on the web at www.rtbsafetraffic.com and remember to check out the Blind Abilities skill on your Amazon device just by saying enable Blind Abilities. You can also listen to Blind Abilities on the Victor Stream and on any pod catcher out there. Just type in Blind Abilities. That's two words, Blind Abilities. And most importantly, I want to thank you, the listener. Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed. And until next time. Bye Bye.

 

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

 

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

 

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

 

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:

Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com On Twitter @BlindAbilities

Download our app from the App store:
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Or send us an e-mail at:

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Thanks for listening.