San Francisco airport rolls out beacons for the blind

Ultimate smart guides, crammed straight into your smartphone

San Francisco airport has rolled out a new service which uses beacons to automatically beam useful information to smartphones once they're in their vicinity.

Created by Indoo.rs, the beacons connect to passing smartphones using Bluetooth LE - a power-sipping Bluetooth standard which ensures that each beacon's battery will last up to four years before it needs replacing.

When users walk within range of a beacon, an app on their phone will automatically pop out with relevant information, assuming Bluetooth is turned on.

For the visually impaired, an app will use iOS' VoiceOver feature to read out this information as it pops up through the airport. The app also rolls out with a directory, which users may use to find points of their own interest, like a the nearest coffee shop or power outlet.

Making flying more accessible

The beacons themselves are non-descript, matching the colour of the surface they're are adhered to, and can be are placed above eye level.

While beacons aren't universal features yet, many places are testing them. Early testers include US retailers Macy's and American Eagle, and Ruben's House Museum in Antwerp is using beacons to display information on its exhibits. Major League Baseball also installed beacons in 28 of its stadiums to direct visitors to points of interest too.

Virgin Atlantic is also testing Apple's iBeacons with a company called Estimote, installing beacons around its section of London Heathrow airport. The beacons notify passengers of various airlines that they're in the vicinity of Virgin lounges or club areas. They also pull up relevant boarding pass information at security checkpoints. At this time, however, Virgin's implementation isn't well-suited for users with visual disabilities.

Still, progress is progress, and we can't wait for the day where our shopping list automatically collaborates with supermarket beacons to ensure the most efficient route round on a hectic Saturday morning. It'll save us elbowing slow walkers out of the way, at least.

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[Source: The Verge]

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