If you find yourself in Madrid, pay attention to where you walk.
Last December, Madrid became the first pilot city for iPavement — deceptively average-looking tile that contains 5GB microprocessors to support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Embedded in each tile is a collection of apps including maps, nearby tourist attractions, weather alerts and coupons for local businesses.
Could this sort of smart pavement revolutionize the pedestrian experience?
At this point in its development, iPavement is geared toward enhancing the tourist experience in unfamiliar cities. Via Inteligente, the Spanish tech company that developed iPavement, stresses the ways in which iPavement’s apps can increase the accessibility of cities, familiarizing users with the local culture and providing useful, practical, real-time information. Not to mention, iPavement allows tourists to gain Internet access on mobile devices without any costly roaming charges.
iPavement can also aid cities in improving services to tourists and locals. Its analytics app, for instance, sends data concerning pedestrian traffic flow and ambient air temperature to the city’s servers to be evaluated with sensory data collected from other sources.
But will iPavement prove useful to locals? It won’t provide urban dwellers with the same scope of Internet access as could a citywide Wi-Fi network. Instead, it may indicate a shift of focus: Wi-Fi that won’t be used as a way to tune out — to read emails or browse websites — but as a way to actively engage with one’s immediate surroundings.