Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Computer Science


Zhanyang Zhang

Committee Members

Ioannis Stamos

Sos Agaian

William H. Seiple

Subject Categories

OS and Networks | Other Computer Sciences | Systems Architecture


Assistive Technology, Visual Impairment, Orientation & Mobility, O&M, Internet of Things, IoT, Irban Infrastructure, Navigation, Mobile Cyber-Physical Systems


It is a challenging problem for researchers and engineers in the assistive technology (AT) community to provide suitable solutions for visually impaired people (VIPs) through AT to meet orientation, navigation and mobility (ONM) needs. Given the spectrum of assistive technologies currently available for the purposes of aiding VIPs with ONM, our literature review and survey have shown that there is a reluctance to adopt these technological solutions in the VIP community.

Motivated by these findings, we think it critical to re-examine and rethink the approaches that have been taken. It is our belief that we need to take a different and innovative approach to solving this problem. We propose an integrated mobile cyber-physical system framework (MCPSF) with an 'agent' and a 'smart environment' to address VIP's ONM needs in urban settings. For example, one of the essential needs for VIPs is to make street navigation easier and safer for them as pedestrians. In a busy city neighborhood, crossing a street is problematic for VIPs: knowing if it is safe; knowing when to cross; and being sure to remain on path and not collide or interfere with objects and people. These remain issues keeping VIPs from a truly independent lifestyle.

In this dissertation, we propose a framework based on mobile cyber-physical systems (MCPS) to address VIP's ONM needs. The concept of mobile cyber-physical systems is intended to bridge the physical space we live in with a cyberspace filled with unique information coming from IoT devices (Internet of Things) which are part of Smart City infrastructure. The devices in the IoT may be embedded in different kinds of physical structures. People with vision loss or other special needs may have difficulties in comprehending or perceiving signals directly in the physical space, but they can make such connections in cyberspace. These cyber connections and real-time information exchanges will enable and enhance their interactions in the physical space and help them better navigate through city streets and street crossings.

As part of the dissertation work, we designed and implemented a proof of concept prototype with essential functions to aid VIP’s for their ONM needs. We believe our research and prototype experience opened a new approach to further research areas that might enhance ONM functions beyond our prototype with potential commercial product development.