Wayfindr Unveils First Open Standard for Smartphone & Beacon Navigation Systems that Help Blind People

12 May 2016
Source: RLSB

Google.org funded nonprofit invites feedback on first working draft of guidelines for audio wayfinding systems that help vision impaired people navigate urban environments

Wayfindr has just published a working draft of the world’s first standard for audio wayfinding using wireless technology, along with a demonstration mobile app.

Using the Wayfindr Open Standard, organisations will be able to develop and implement audio wayfinding solutions across smartphone apps and locations. This will provide a consistent and reliable navigation experience for blind and partially sighted customers.

Firstly, the Open Standard provides design-related guidelines, alongside a demonstration app, to aid implementation of a digital navigation service. The Open Standard covers areas such as the design of audio instructions (e.g. detail, structure and language), needs per context, key considerations when designing for blind people and recognised protocols to reassure and orient vision impaired people. Secondly, the Open Standard provides best practices and guidelines on the installation, configuration and maintenance of wayfinding technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy beacons.

The Open Standard is a key deliverable for Wayfindr, a nonprofit that arose from a 2014 collaboration between the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and digital product studio, ustwo, in response to a need identified by RLSB Youth Forum members. Since launch in late 2015, it has been developing and testing the Open Standard, supported by a $1m donation from Google.org. The real world trials and testing have been taking place in partnership with two of the world’s largest metropolitan transportation authorities, in London (as reported by the BBC) and Sydney. Testing and development of the Open Standard will continue in a variety of other settings through 2016.

In order to ensure the success of the Wayfindr Open Standard, Wayfindr is building the Wayfindr Community. This global community of like-minded people and organisations are united through an ambition to empower vision impaired people to navigate the world independently. Members include navigation app developers, device makers, vision impairment experts and venue owners in fields such as transportation, retail and the public sector worldwide, all of whom can play a role in evolving the Open Standard and securing its adoption on a global scale.

Umesh Pandya, CEO and co-founder of Wayfindr, said: “As we investigated solutions to the global issue of independent travel for blind and partially sighted people, it was clear to us that we needed to do more than create another app. The world’s software developers and venue owners needed a standard to rally around in their efforts to improve the lives of the vision impaired. The Wayfindr Open Standard combines the design expertise of ustwo with the insights of the RLSB. Developed alongside users and tested in live environments – globally, we hope that the Open Standard will help the market for blind navigation services really take off and that everyone will now become involved in evolving it to cover every setting together.”

Dr Tom Pey, Chief Executive at the RLSB, said: “Technology plays a central part in all our lives and is even more important to those who are visually impaired.  I am so proud of the young vision impaired people who came together through the RLSB’s Youth Forum to use their knowledge to harness the power of the digital age to help blind and partially sighted people across the entire world to get around safely and like everyone else.  Publication of the working draft of the Open Standard is a significant first step in making their dream a reality.”

Mark Evers, London Underground’s Director of Customer Strategy at TfL, said: “We were delighted to support the trials of this exciting new technology at London Underground stations. We are always keen to see how the latest innovations can help make our transport network more accessible and being involved in these trials has helped us understand and design for the future needs of our visually impaired customers.  We intend to be closely involved in the Wayfindr Community as it grows.”

Nathan Dunn, CEO at BlueCats said: “The Wayfindr Open Standard is going to change many people’s lives in ways most of us could not comprehend.  BlueCats is thrilled to be part of the Wayfindr Alliance, working closely with the Wayfindr team to pursue their dream of enabling more and more organisations and individuals, all over the world to get involved and help change lives.

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