Bluetooth beacons trialled in London Underground for blind passengers

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London Underground is trialling Bluetooth beacon technology to help blind and visually impaired travellers get around a station. 

The Wayfindr system pairs 16 beacons set out in Pimlico station in central London with smartphones. The beacons send a signal to mobile devices and use indoor positioning technology from ustwo to give audible directions to a user. The technology can also work with bone conduction earphones, which do not drown out other noises.

It is hoped that following the one month trial that the technology could be rolled out to other stations. The technology was built in response to a call by the Royal London Society for Blind People to help navigating through tube stations easier.

Mark Evers, LU's Director of Customer Strategy, 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. While we have staff at all Tube stations to assist people whenever they need, we're always keen to see how technology and innovation can help open up and make our networks more accessible.

"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."

Umesh Pandya at ustwo said: "We're looking forward to working with TfL, as innovation partners, on several ongoing projects helping to define the future of digital travel-related experiences. Wayfindr came from Invent Time, an initiative at ustwo that gives us the opportunity to explore diverse areas including energy, wellbeing, mobility and education.

"Using our expertise in design and emerging technologies, we aim to partner with pioneering organisations such as the RLSB to create products that make a difference."

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