HAInews 2023/02HAIlight in July: Keeping a cool head throughout town

The sun is burning down from the sky and you want to avoid routes in scorching heat on your way through the city – for that a special routing service that shows the coolest routes is supposed to help in the future. Participants of the “HAIlight in July” were able to test the prototype of an app, which is currently being developed at Heidelberg University, and give tips for practical further development.

Climate change is already causing more and more extreme heat stress, especially in cities, where settlement density, sealed surfaces and little greenery exacerbate the heat stress. This can be increasingly dangerous for the health of older people or people with pre-existing conditions as well as for young children. As part of the research project "Heat Adaptation for Vulnerable Populations (HEAL)", the Department of Geoinformatics and the TdLab Geography at the Institute of Geography at Heidelberg University and the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT), together with various cooperation partners such as the Heidelberg city administration, have been developing an app in the past two years that is intended to help prevent heat stress: With the help of sensor data, heat areas in the city are identified and routes that avoid heat as much as possible are calculated on the basis of this information. However, the knowledge gained is not only to be used for a digital system, but also for analogue maps and other applications.

Hand hält Handy mit geöffnetem Routingdienst

It was also hot in Heidelberg on 19 July 2023, when a small group of alumnae and alumni met on University Square for this HAIlight – the best conditions for testing the prototype of the app, which is to become a practical product in the coming year. The application is currently being tested with the target group, but feedback from HAIlight participants on the general user-friendliness will also be incorporated into the further development. Kathrin Foshag and Celina Offner from TdLab Geography first briefly presented the research project and then gave the most necessary information about the app – because the participants should find out for themselves how it works so that the researchers could draw conclusions about the extent to which the current design is self-explanatory.

After the first few teething problems, the participants were given a test task: with the help of the app, they had to find the coolest route from the University Library to Bismarckplatz and check whether they actually felt any relief on the chosen way. The routing service shows in each case with the selectable parameters morning, noon, afternoon and evening for (partial) routes whether the heat load is low, medium or high, depending on the air temperature and shade situation. After arriving at Bismarckplatz, there was a feedback round with questions about the satisfaction with the use of the app. The participants still saw room for improvement due to various technical “bugs” as well as more fundamental problems. The researchers were also interested in whether there was a need for such an app in one's own city or whether it was mainly of interest to tourists. In principle, however, the alumni were enthusiastic about the idea of such an app – and they hope that in the future it will also be possible to link the app to a “cool map” hosted by the City of Heidelberg, which shows benches near trees, ice cream parlours, refill stations and other “refreshing” points on the paths.