Sensors and smartphone app guide blind people around busy Tube station

Smart city technology being trialled in London is helping blind and partially sighted people navigate their way around Euston Tube station.

The Wayfindr digital navigation system guides trial participants through the London Underground station, giving audio directions from a prototype smartphone app that interacts with beacons installed throughout the station, Transport for London (TfL) explained.

Building on a pilot project at Pimlico station in early 2015, the latest trial is a full-scale demonstration at one of the busiest stations on the London Underground.

If successful, the technology could be rolled out across the Tube network.

Google’s charitable arm, Google.org, has invested $1 million (£654,000) in Wayfindr, a British non-profit that is setting the first standard for audio navigation for vision impaired people. It is a joint venture between the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and digital product studio ustwo.

Dr. Tom Pey, chief executive of RLSB and chair of Wayfindr, said: Smartphones have revolutionised the lives of blind people, giving us a level of independence that 20 years ago we couldn’t have imagined. What makes Wayfindr so strong is the focus on smartphones, meaning blind people don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on different gadgets — they have everything they need in their pockets. I am excited for our young people to be at the forefront of making London the most accessible city in the world, through the Wayfindr Standard.

The trial at Euston aims to put the Wayfindr system through its paces, according to David Waboso, London Underground’s capital programmes director.

Ultimately this innovative project is about giving our vision-impaired customers the flexibility to travel with the same independence and spontaneity as everyone else, he added. We’re excited to see what this technology can do to make London an even more open and accessible city.

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