m4guide - mobile multi-modal mobility guide

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Main actors

City Government, Community / Citizen Group, Public Utility, Research Institutes / Universities

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Project area

Neighborhood or district

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2012/12

m4guide stands for an integrated communication and navigation system by which the user is led continuously from door to door. As a result, the m4guide increases the user's opportunities for mobility in the city.

The m4guide app for Android was developed as part of the m4guide research project (mobile multi-modal mobility guide). m4guide is a continuous travel information and traffic guidance system for Berlin-Mitte, the central district of Berlin, enabling seamless navigation in public street space, including the use of the local public transport network and route guidance in buildings. In strengthening the possibilities of individuals to participate in all spheres of social life, the project contributes to implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by Germany in 2009.

As a navigation system that meets extensive requirements for the blind and partially sighted people, m4guide is also transferable to other groups of individuals. In order to ensure continued use of the project's outcomes in Berlin, the innovative navigation system will be integrated into the existing Fahrinfo ("trip info") navigation system of the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (VBB) and the Berliner Verkehrsbetrieben (BVG). The Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment is supporting its successful integration in both those systems.

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Berlin, Germany

Size and population development
The population registered for the municipality of Berlin in 2017 was 3,613,500, making it the second most populous city in the European Union. The larger metropolitan area has around 5 million people living in 1,347 square kilometres, giving it a population density of around 15,000 people per square kilometre—similar to Mexico City or Tokyo.

Population composition
It has been estimated that up to 30 percent of Berlin’ s population are of foreign origin. The foreigners originate from other parts of Europe—such as Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Russia, Spain, Bosnian, Bulgarian, and Italian—as well as from countries outside of Europe, such as Turkey, Palestine, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Ghana. The largest non-native population comes from Turkey; in the year of 2010, there were more than 100,000 Turkish registered as inhabitants of Berlin.

Main functions
Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany, as well as one of the nation’s 16 states. It is situated approximately 112 miles (180 km) south of the Baltic Sea and lies in the wide glacial valley of the Spree River, which runs through the centre of the city. The city extends over an area of 891.7 square kilometres and stands at an average altitude of 34 meters above sea level. After the reunification of the two Berlins in 1990, Germany began a process to centralize the capital to Berlin (replacing Bonn, the former capital of West Germany). Since then, Berlin is the place where the German House of Representatives and the German Bundestag hold elections. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that the Bundestag and the government of Berlin were fully established under the same roof. Berlin is also a city of great cultural significance, which is evident if one considers the amount of historical landmarks that tie the city’s history to its multiple overlapping pasts. Some of the most important landmarks include the Holocaust memorial (inaugurated in 2003), remnants of the Berlin Wall (taken down on the 9th of November 1989), the Reichstag Building (which dates to 1884). As the capital of Germany, Europe’s most populous and economically powerful country, Berlin is also the centre of, culture, politics, media and science in the country and serves as a European hub for air and rail traffic.

Main industries / business
As the 4th largest economy of the world, Germany participates of a wide array of industries with a famous efficiency. In Berlin one may find strong state-owned enterprises, like the Deustche Bahn (the railway), which employs the largest amount of general population (more than 20,000 people). Other companies that thrive in Berlin are: the Deustche Post (DHL), the technology company Siemens, the automotive manufacturer BMW, and the telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom. Hence, one may assume that Berlin specializes in the secondary and tertiary sectors of economy. Tourism brings more than 135 million visitors to the city (which include day-time visitors as well as overnight ones). Apart from other student cities in Germany like Köln and Munich, Berlin houses some of the most well-reputed universities in the world: the Freire Universität Berlin and the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, with more than 30,000 students each.

Sources for city budget
Berlin draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, transfers received, fees, fines, and operating revenues. This money is federally approved and spent in such a way that it can also be used in the form of funding for companies, not only to comply with the provision of quality public services.

Political structure
Berlin serves both as a city with a local government and as capital of Germany. In regard to the latter, it houses the Bundesregierung (Federal government), the Bundestag (Federal parliament) and the Bundesrat (the States’ chamber of Parliament). Each of the 16 states of Germany has representation in Berlin. It is governed by the Berlin Senate which is comprised of 10 senators and the Governing Mayor. Also, the embassies of other countries from around the world are housed in the city. The 16 states (Laender) have a similar standing to the federal government in respect to most issues.

Administrative structure
Berlin is administrated by the Senate and its 12 districts or boroughs. The Senate is the city’s central administration, in charge of city planning, public policy, and regulation of public and private spheres. The district administrations decentralize some public functions, with reasonable difference between the various localities.

Approximately 145,000 blind people and 1.2 million partially sighted people live in Germany. In order to get from place to place, they are often reliant on the local public transport system. A continuous navigation system that includes all forms of transportation, with which the blind and visually impaired can get from door to door in an unfamiliar urban environment by foot, with public transport and at stations and citizens’ information offices, has not been successfully implemented thus far.

In 2010, led by heureka Consult with the project partners IVU Traffic Technologies AG, Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg and Fraunhofer FIRST, the feasibility study GALILEO-basiertes verkehrsmittelübergreifendes Ortungs- und Navigationssystem für blinde und stark sehbehinderte Personen in Berlin (3MGuide) ("GALILEO-based comprehensive transportation tracking and navigation system for blind and highly visually impaired people in Berlin - 3MGuide") was implemented by the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment. The m4guide project followed this investigation of outdoor and indoor tracking and route guidance as well as the research project Guide4Blind conducted by the administrative district Soest, in which a blind-friendly guidance system for local public transport was developed.

The objective is to develop a consistent transportation navigation system aimed at the blind and visually impaired people that includes all forms of transportationThis system will help them traveling from place to place in an unfamiliar urban environment, whether they are on foot, using public transport, at train/bus stations or in citizens’ offices. m4guide can however be used by anyone who is attempting to orientate themselves in an unfamiliar urban context.  

With its particular focus on pedestrian navigation for the blind and visually impaired, the m4guide project was enthusiastically supported by the Deutscher Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband ("German Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted") and the Fichtenberg Oberschule Berlin ("Fichtenberg Secondary School, Berlin"). As such, in cooperation with the target group, requirements catalogues and user profiles were created and function tests conducted.

The project comprehensively uses the possibilities offered by digitalisation: pioneering work was performed by the Berlin technology provider eagle eye technologies GmbH and a procedure using a stereoscopic acquisition system to investigate all the street segments was developed. 3D information was derived from this investigation data and all street objects and spaces were recorded with maximum accuracy. This data – together with the real-time data on restrictions in the Berlin streetscape provided by the Berlin administration – forms the data basis for the project. Furthermore, the location-specific incident data taken from street segments serve to expand the information system for the blind on footpath works and street closures. Additional real-time timetable data is available for navigation in the local public transport network. These are based on existing travel information systems for local public transport. A complex total architecture of servers and services connects the components with one another.

In the absence of satellite navigation systems in indoor spaces, a tracking solution was developed by Fraunhofer FOKUS (Frauenhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems), including Wifi field density, inertial sensors as well as Bluetooth and optical technologies. Furthermore, the navigation in urban areas with strong shading was supported by the underlying data model of footpaths in order to enable the blind and visually impaired pedestrians to better orientate themselves.

Additional uses of the data include areas such as autonomous driving and high-capacity transports, which both have high requirements for street data and street geometrics. This data basis is not solely intended for use with the m4guide, but is also intended as a municipal data stock provided free to the public. In the future, this data can be re-used for mobility studies in the area of accessibility. The Senate Department for Urban Development and Environment is also striving to ensure that civil engineering departments receive this data to later apply it in planning and implementing streetscape construction work.

As part of the Von Tür zu Tür – eine Mobilitätsinitiative für den Öffentlichen Personenverkehr der Zukunft ("From door to door – a mobility initiative for the local public transport network of the future”) research initiative, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs placed 4 million euros at the disposal of the m4guide project. The companies involved contributed an additional 1.6 million euros.

If the concepts, procedures and components developed in the m4guide are implemented in the VBB traffic info app and scaled correspondingly, the mobility of all citizens will be enhanced: the navigation from the front door all the way to the contact’s office at the district office using public transport breaks down barriers against participation in social activities and provides security in everyday life. 

As part of the project, new data models and acquisition rules for a multitude of street objects and traffic areas were developed, which have thus far not been recorded in this way and to this extent in Germany. The newly introduced street data for the project will be published freely under Open Data. The high quality and data density will enable start-ups and other technology firms to develop new and innovative geo-technologies for the region. As a result, the accessibility of the city and its local public transport network will be strengthened considerably, since extensive journey information can be retrieved at any time.

An acquisition catalogue still needed to be created for various street objects and their significance for pedestrian traffic, which had not been recorded thus far. Furthermore, pedestrian tracking is still problematic in inner-city areas and in buildings with current Smartphone technology. For this reason, innovative solution concepts were developed as part of the project.

Between outdoor navigation, public transport route guidance and indoor route guidance, a complex overall architecture of servers and services needed to be implemented into the existing offer.

With the preparation of street data from the m4guide project and investigations in other districts, the state of Berlin is providing for the first time a free broadly based data basis across the public streetscape. Building on that, private citizens or start-ups can generate economic added value.

The objective of developping a consistent transportation navigation system that includes all forms of transportation is not an isolated solution; it is the preparation of integration into the traffic information systems of the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (VBB) and the Berliner Verkehrsbetrieben (BVG). Consequently, mobility is strengthened for blind and visually impaired people, as well as all others who require orientation for daily journeys across the whole of Berlin and the surrounding area in Brandenburg. 

The m4guide will first be implemented in the cities of Soest and Berlin. An extension to other areas is also planned for the long-term.

- Berlin Senate Department for City Development and the Environment

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Nélida Rostock
Berlin, Germany

Nélida Rostock

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