Vision app trialled on the Tube

Bluetooth smartphone app uses beacon to safely guide visually impaired users through Pimlico Underground station

03 Mar 2015 by Ryan O'Hare

A new smartphone app which could help blind and partially sighted people find their way around cities is being trialled on the London Underground.

The trial of the app, called Wayfindr, is currently being carried out at Pimlico tube station.

Wayfindr has been developed through a collaboration between the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) Youth Forum and technology company ustwo.

The app uses Bluetooth signals to send information about the user’s environment to their smartphone. A total of 16 Bluetooth beacons have been installed at Pimlico station to relay the signals, and young people with vision impairment are testing the app on the Underground.

London Underground’s director of strategy and service development, Gareth Powell, said: “We are delighted to be able to support this trial, which has developed directly from the desire of young visually impaired people to get around on their own.”

Mr Powell added: “As well as testing an exciting new technology, the trial is giving us valuable information to help us understand and design for the future needs of our visually impaired customers.”

In the current setup at Pimlico station, the app provides information to enable users to safely navigate through the ticket hall, down escalators and onto the train, through audio directions triggered by their proximity to the Bluetooth beacons.

Courtney Nugent, a member of the RLSB Youth Forum, and one of those testing the app in this trial, said: “I am so happy to see Wayfindr come to life... to see a working trial on the Underground is fantastic. When I tested the app at Pimlico last week for the first time it was awesome, it made me feel free.”

The trial will run until 13 March and the team behind the app hope to standardise all audio signage across Transport for London.

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