BlindSquare BPS is a navigation system that uses the BlindSquare application for iPhone. The system combines Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons, QR Codes, and CLS (Customised Location Service) to provide you with information about your surroundings and key points when you enter a building.
BlindSquare BPS can be installed in/around any building to make it more accessible to people who are blind or partially sighted. In a shopping centre, it can assist people to find businesses or restaurants. Installed in a museum, it can not only help them to navigate the building, but also make the exhibits more accessible by providing audio information that is usually only available in print. If buses are equipped with Beacons, they can announce their arrival to blind and partially sighted passengers, helping them to make sure they get onto the right bus.
What are Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons?
Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons are battery powered devices that vary in size but are usually small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and light enough to be hung on walls, ceilings or other fixtures with minimal disruption.
The Beacons are placed at specific points in/around a building to maximise their impact, and as you move around the building each Beacon broadcasts a unique ID that can be received by your iPhone. Your iPhone can detect the distance to a Beacon by the strength of the signal being received, with a stronger signal indicating that you are close.
In BlindSquare BPS, several messages can be associated with a Beacon. When you open BlindSquare it will check for information about Beacons near your location and, if available, download it to your device. When the iPhone receives the signal from a nearby Beacon, BlindSquare will read out one of the messages associated with that Beacon. If several messages are linked with a Beacon, it will depend on various factors which of them is read out. These may be your walking direction, the direction you are pointing your device, or the Beacons that have been detected earlier. This helps BlindSquare BPS to be context aware. For example, if you leave an underground station a Beacon can inform you that there is a shopping centre nearby. If you leave the shopping centre, the same Beacon can direct you to the underground station.
Beacons are battery powered, which ensures that BlindSquare BPS will also be available in the event of a power cut and depending on the settings of the individual Beacon, a battery may last two to four years.
So where do QR fit into this?
We have gone into more detail about QR on our page here, but the solution uses QR codes to provide information in varying forms that are accessible for people who are bind/partially sighted. When the QR is scanned using a smartphone you will be directed to a link, which could be a plain text document or audio file. If the text-to-speech function is enabled then the contents of the document can be read by the user. Equally they can make use of the magnification functions on their smartphone if they prefer, as the document will be presented in clear print form. If it is an audio file then it can be played with the smartphone.
If the QR is scanned with the QR reader in the BlindSquare application then we can program it to respond in the same way as a standard QR reader, or we can program it to react differently.
What is CLS?
The CLS or Customised Location Service can make the premises of organisations, schools, universities, museums, parks, or of any other place of public interest more accessible to guests, staff, students or visitors who are blind or partially sighted. Using GPS coordinates, premise owners or operators may define points of special importance to blind and partially sighted individuals. Messages can be linked to these points, which will be spoken by BlindSquare when a BlindSquare user approaches one of them. It is possible to link different messages to the same point. For example, if a pedestrian walks towards a set of steps from the north, BlindSquare can notify them of steps leading up, whereas it would warn them of steps leading down if these steps were approached from the South. Points and messages can be entered through an easy to use online interface. The information is saved in the cloud and updated instantly.
In the Museum example, the CLS can add valuable information about features in the grounds of the Museum or surrounding streets and approaches such as pedestrian crossings, location of entrances/exits, transport terminals, or the presence of shared surfaces for vehicles and pedestrians. This not only keeps the user more informed but it helps keep the user more safe when travelling, and can be easily updated if there are alterations to the road layout or periods of time when a bus stop is not in use, or there are additional obstacles in the road or on pavements.
There are a number of good examples of BlindSquare BPS from around the world, including our installation at Seescape in Kirkcaldy. Click on the button below to be linked to our YouTube page, which contains a series of videos about BlindSquare BPS.
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