San Francisco airport to test sensors that talk to smartphone apps to help the blind find their way

Aug 01, 2014 by Bob Yirka report

Officials with San Francisco International Airport (SFO) have announced a pilot program to test the usefulness of sensors placed on the walls to help blind people find their way. The sensors will emit Bluetooth signals for capture by smartphones running an associated app. The signals will be converted to voice messages telling the user which way to turn to get to their destination, similar to that used for drivers using GPS systems.

GPS, by all accounts, is a major hit, especially for helping drivers get to where they want to go—but it doesn't work indoors, which has led to some work-arounds. Some hardware makers have been betting on near field communications, others are going with the more established Bluetooth. That's the case with Austrian indoor positioning company, Indoo.rs—they're the ones that make the going on the walls of Terminal 2 at SFO. The sensors are round and black, slightly larger than a quarter, and rely on battery power—each costs $20 and is projected to last for four years before running out of juice. They emit Bluetooth signals which are translated to location information on a smartphone.

As a person walks, they are transferred between sensors in a way similar to the way drivers using cell phones are passed from tower to tower automatically. That allows for not only offering directions, but for dishing out other useful information, such as calling out the names of restaurants or noting bathrooms as a person walks towards their ultimate destination. SFO and Indoo.rs have another partner as well, Lighthouse for the Blind, an organization with a history of providing services to those with vision impairments. If the program is successful, SFO plans to expand the sensors to the entire airport, providing assistance from curbside to boarding gates.

Workers have installed 300 of the sensors which are already being put to the test by technicians, and presumably volunteers—if all goes well, the app will be made available for public use in just a few months time. Indoo.rs has suggested that non sight-impaired people may also want to use the app to help them find their way around the airport.

Explore further: Faster maintenance for traffic control systems

More information:indoo.rs/
indoo.rs/indoo-rs-and-san-fran… impaired-passengers/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Faster maintenance for traffic control systems

May 06, 2014

A new app from Siemens halves the time needed for technicians to service intelligent traffic management systems on highways. The automatic display panels on sign gantries are controlled by sensors, and the ...

Apple app directs drivers to Alaska airport runway

Sep 25, 2013

An Alaska airport official says a glitch in the Apple Maps app on newer iPhones and iPads guides people up to a runway at the facility, instead of sending them on the proper route to the terminal.

Calgary rolls out Bluetooth travel time system

Dec 09, 2012

(Phys.org)—The City of Calgary, Alberta, now uses Bluetooth-based tracking to give people real-time information about travel time during their commute. The system collects information from Bluetooth devices ...

Recommended for you

Google to test cars without a driver

8 hours ago

Google plans to begin testing its new prototype of a self-driving car - which, unlike earlier models, doesn't require a back-up driver - at NASA's Ames Research Center, just a few miles from the tech company's ...

Self-driving cars now need a permit in California

10 hours ago

Computer-driven cars have been testing their skills on California roads for more than four years—but until now, the Department of Motor Vehicles wasn't sure just how many were rolling around.

Index ranks Japan Asia's most efficient innovator (Update)

Sep 12, 2014

A new index ranks Japan as the most efficient among Asian countries in turning the building blocks of creativity into tangible innovations that benefit their economies and people while Myanmar, Pakistan and Cambodia are least ...

Making travel quick, safe for cars, bikes, walkers

Sep 10, 2014

Cellphones that warn drivers when people are crossing in front of them. Bicycles and cars that communicate with traffic lights. Sensors in cars that quickly alert other drivers to black ice, potholes or other ...

Tech giants bet on 'smart home' revolution

Sep 10, 2014

It's long been the stuff of science fiction, but tech giants hope the "smart home", where gadgets talk to each other and the fridge orders the milk, will soon become reality.

User comments : 0