GPS app for intellectually disabled bags 2017 Irish James Dyson award

7 Sep 2017

From left: Patrick O’Shea with his father, Pat, showcasing the WaytoB app. Image: Patrick Browne

An app that helps people with intellectual disabilities gain greater independence has won the Irish leg of the 2017 James Dyson award.

One of the greatest challenges to many people with intellectual disabilities is the independence to navigate their way from one place to another on a daily basis without a carer. However, the winning entry of the Irish leg of the 2017 James Dyson award could be about to change that.

This year’s award went to WaytoB, a smartphone and smartwatch app that allows the carer to pre-programme set routes, which users can follow easily and independently.

While most navigation apps have a multitude of different functions and complications, the WaytoB app features a simplified and intuitive interface, and turn-by-turn directions based on the user’s orientation.

Proven in the field

The app was invented by two Trinity College Dublin (TCD) mechanical engineering graduates, Talita Holzer Saad (26) and Robbie Fryers (24), who were first inspired to invent a product that would integrate those with intellectual disabilities better into society.

Now on its ninth prototype, the app is still being developed and tested for global roll-out, but has already been trialled on six people who have Down Syndrome, including 37-year-old Patrick O’Shea from Malahide, Dublin.

O’Shea’s father, Pat, said that it has really helped his son getting around: “Patrick is already reasonably independent and this app is really helpful in supporting this and making life easier,” he said.

“It will also be of major benefit when he goes on his weekly bus trip to Dublin city centre. Instead of having to stay in the same area, we will be able to programme a number of routes that will easily guide him to different parts of town.”

WaytoB app

The WaytoB app. Image: Patrick Browne

€2,200 prize

Holzer Saad and Fryers said they will continue to develop the app as research assistants in TCD, and hope to launch the final product in Ireland, the UK and the US next year with help from the €2,200 they received as a national winner.

The WaytoB app will now be included among some of the world’s best young engineers and inventors at the international stage of the James Dyson awards. The winner is to be announced on 26 October with a grand prize of €32,000.

Joining them will be four other Irish inventions that have been shortlisted to proceed to the next stage.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic