underground mobile phone beacons

Technology helps visually impaired navigate the Tube

The desire of a group of visually impaired young people to travel independently on the London Underground, rather than rely on friends, has contributed to the development of a ground-breaking app which they can use to guide them.

The technology using Bluetooth beacons is being tested by Transport for London (TfL).

It designer says it could eventually be used in busy rail stations and airports around the country.

Members of the Youth Forum of the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) said they wanted to navigate the tube system independently.

“Its given me the chance to be independent and be really free”

Lauren Richardson, Royal London Society for Blind People


Currently most have to rely on friends to help them get used to familiar routes or phone ahead to request assistance from London Underground staff. Many do not feel confident about using the whole network.

They group teamed up with a digital products designer, ustwo, which then devised a system which was effective below ground.

The Bluetooth beacons transmit signals which can be picked up by smartphones and other mobile devices.

Audible directions are provided to users via “bone conduction” earphones which allow them to hear sounds around them as well.

The directions warn users when they are approaching escalators and ticket barriers and which platforms they may be approaching.

Hugh Pym had exclusive access to a new trial on the London Underground

It’s the first such trial of a technology which can guide blind and partially sighted people underground or in areas with limited mobile phone reception.

Developers say it could be used in other subway networks like those in Newcastle and Glasgow or in other busy public transport hubs.

To read the full article, please visit BBC News – Technology helps visually impaired navigate the Tube.


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