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

August 1, 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: Calgary rolls out Bluetooth travel time system

More information:indoo.rs/
indoo.rs/indoo-rs-and-san-francisco-international-airport-unveil-app-for-visually-impaired-passengers/

Related Stories

Calgary rolls out Bluetooth travel time system

December 9, 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 and estimates ...

Apple app directs drivers to Alaska airport runway

September 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.

Faster maintenance for traffic control systems

May 6, 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 exchange of data ...

Recommended for you

Facebook ready to test giant drone for Internet service

July 30, 2015

Facebook says it will begin test flights later this year for a solar-powered drone with a wingspan as big as a Boeing 737, in the next stage of its campaign to deliver Internet connectivity to remote parts of the world.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.