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IBM Student Researchers Help Hearing-Impaired With New Development
Mobile Phones | SME solutions
Tue 19 Sep 2006

SINGAPORE, September 19, 2006 -- UK undergraduates involved in a research project at IBM’s software laboratory in Hursley, as part of IBM's global Extreme Blue programme, have developed a mobile system designed to improve communications for hearing-impaired people when they enter locations such as railway stations, airports and workplaces.

The system, code-named LAMA (Location Aware Messaging for Accessibility), can send a wide range of location-specific information to system users' mobile phones. Information can be sent in a range of requested delivery formats. These are usually text messages, but an image or tactile alert such as handset vibration can also be sent.

As system users enter a location running LAMA -- such as a railway station or airport -- their mobile phone actively recognises the system and provides a list of messaging services on offer. Following service registration, users can be automatically alerted to public address announcements, which are immediately converted into their preferred format.

"I am very excited about the potential of this development as it can reduce the sense of isolation that hearing impaired people have. Specifically , it offers the opportunity for hearing impaired people to be aware of urgent announcements whether they be on public transport or in the workplace," said David Livermore, Chairman of Deafness Research UK and former Chairman of the RNID.

The system is of particular benefit to hearing-impaired people as it enables them to receive critical information such as emergency alerts, fire alarms, security and safety instructions as text messages with accompanying alerts.

"This is a prime example of IBM applying its research and development expertise to address issues facing society. We believe that LAMA may be of interest to several public bodies and employers seeking to improve employee services and facilities, particularly to comply with UK Disability Discrimination legislation," said Dr Andy Stanford-Clark, Master Inventor, IBM Hursley.

Examples of environments where LAMA technology may be of benefit include:
  * railway stations: timetable information, station facilities, train delays, cancellations and platform changes
  * places of work: fire alarm messages and public address announcements
  * sports events: location of stadium facilities, emergency exits, safety announcements, scores and substitutions
  * shopping centres: in-store promotions, public announcements and customer information.

"LAMA addresses a number of issues for everyone in terms of getting the right information when needed. The smart thing about LAMA is that information can be delivered in a number of different ways, so people with various levels of hearing and visual impairment can use it to receive the same information as everyone else," said Claire Leckey, IBM Software Developer and LAMA project business analyst.

System installation simply requires the location to integrate LAMA hardware and software into their existing IT and communications infrastructure. This enables LAMA-enabled mobile phones to interact with the LAMA system to access information and notifications that are specific to that location. LAMA makes use of Bluetooth and GPRS technologies, and can be adapted to work with WiFi and GSM networks.

LAMA is due to be piloted in coming months across the UK. When fully implemented, it is anticipated that users will be able to easily download LAMA client software to their mobile phone from a Web site.

"LAMA is an exciting addition to IBM's existing work on Pervasive Accessibility, using IBM's Pervasive Messaging technology to enhance communications choices for people with impaired hearing or sight," added Dr Stanford-Clark.

IBM Extreme Blue is a global programme and an incubator for talent, technology and business innovation. It is IBM's premier internship for top-notch students pursuing software development and MBA degrees. It was a big idea that started small in 1999. Today, the Extreme Blue program has expanded to 12 IBM labs worldwide.

For further information on IBM's Extreme Blue programme please visit: