Imagine trying to navigate a busy town without the benefit of sight, using only a white cane to help you safely get around. A couple of college students saw the problem and wanted to come up with a solution to make getting around town a little easier for the visually impaired.
They came up with a design for an IoT enabled device that straps onto a cane and is Bluetooth enabled.
Soon after, they created their company, Handisco. "Handisco comes from the French prefix Handi, which is the French word for disabled people," says Florian Esteves, one of the company's co-founders.
Through their university, Handisco's co-founders heard about a competition sponsored by Cisco, called the Switch-Up Challenge. They entered two years ago and won not only seed money to get their company off the ground, but also mentoring from Cisco employees. "It was good help for us because we were rookies," Esteves said. "We are engineers so we do not know so much about strategy."
The young entrepreneurs called their creation Sherpa, after the Himalayan mountain guides. "For us, it's kind of the same thing in the city," Esteves said. "The goal of this product is to help people to achieve more and more things in the city."
Here's how it works. Using GPS and IoT technology, the Sherpa can communicate and connect with a pedestrian light to let someone know when it's safe to cross the street.
The Sherpa can also guide someone with step by step directions and can give them detailed information on bus routes and pickup times.
"We have been supporting Handisco for a few years now through their incubation phases and now indeed they're ready to go to market," said Alain Fiocco, a Cisco Senior Director in Engineering.
Handisco has been actively working with the visually impaired community in Nancy, France and have secured their first sales and will be available in September of 2017. Right now, The Sherpa is only available in France, but the co-founders hope to scale-up and make it available throughout Europe.