Blind train travellers guided to platform by Bluetooth

Blind and partially sighted train commuters will be guided to their platform using Bluetooth technology in London if trials go well.

Bluetooth beacons are being set up at Pimlico Station on the London Underground to give directions to people, including down escalators, via headphones plugged into their smartphones.

The Wayfindr system, developed by digital studio ustwo, allows signals transmitted by Bluetooth to be picked up by the mobile phone and then, once the app is able to locate itself, guidance messages will be sent.

The app can be used underground as it does not rely on a mobile phone signal and is also paired with ‘bone conduction’ earphones that muffle outside noise.

Sixteen beacons have been installed at key points in the station – the top of the stairs, close to ticket barriers, near escalators and around platforms – to transmit instructions or alerts such as “turn right for trains to Brixton” or “you are approaching the bottom of the escalator”.

The project is led by Transport for London after the idea came from the Royal London Society for Blind People Youth Forum, and is undergoing trial this month.

“When we tested the app for the first time it was awesome; it made me feel free,” Courtney Nugent, of the forum, said.
It is thought the technology could in the future be used by tourists unfamiliar with London’s transport system to help navigate, with messages offered in multiple languages.

Isabel Dedring, deputy mayor for transport, said: “This is another great example of how London is leading the way in making public transport more accessible for everyone. These trials will hopefully prove that this sort of technology works in real life situations and will give people more freedom and confidence to travel around our capital.”

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