Flickr: TfL

Flickr: TfL

When Umesh Pandya discussed New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 with his wife Bhavi (an Optometrist), he made a commitment to help people living with sight loss, an issue “which remains close to our hearts”.

Since then his Wayfindr navigation system for partially sighted and blind users of transport has received support from Transport for London, Department for Transport (via the KTN promoted DfT T-TRIG grant scheme) and most recently from

“For me”, said Umesh on his latest blog post, “the Wayfindr standard is a perfect example of my belief that designing to be accessible to extreme users, helps create a product that is accessible and valuable to all”.

Latest trial at a major underground station

As a result of support from Google, last month (Friday 4 December 2015) Transport for London announced details of a further, extended, trial of Wayfindr at Euston London Underground station, the first installation of the iBeacons based system at a major station on the network.

This trial builds on a pilot project at Pimlico station in February 2015, and a cross-modal test of the technology extending the system to include a bus stop outside Pimlico station.

The bus stop trial investigated application of the Wayfindr standard across a wider transport environment and was supported by grant funding provided by the Department for Transport under its T-TRIG (Transport Technology Innovations Grant).

The trial, with support from Transport for London’s Technology & Innovation team, was considered successful. However, user feedback showed that addressing the challenge of navigating the Underground was a higher priority than navigating at surface level for many visually impaired users.

Wayfindr is an open standard for audio-based navigation, stemming from a collaboration between ustwo (a digital product studio) and the RLSB Youth Forum – used to empower vision-impaired people to move independently through their environment. Wayfindr system uses Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to transmit a signal to mobile phones. The app is then able to locate the user and give audible directions to guide them through stations.

The latest trial guides participants through Euston Tube station, giving audio directions from a prototype smartphone app that interacts with beacons installed throughout the station.

LU commissioned the trial to find out if the system can work reliably across the Tube network and to test and refine Wayfindr’s standards for audio navigation.

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