Bluetooth Beacons are small devices that send Bluetooth signals to nearby mobile devices. These can trigger actions on these mobile devices, for example sending a marketing message at the right time and place. They are especially helpful for helping the visually impaired navigate indoors where GPS can’t reach phones. A number of projects use beacons in this capacity in a variety of sectors.
Transportation services are one of the main verticals using beacons to help make their services more accessible. Bus companies in Northern Italy and Romania are using them to help alert people when a bus is near or how to conduct a transfer. Several train stations have adopted the same approach. Beacons are also a popular way to make universities more accessible. Penn State has been one of the pioneers in the university sector.
In the retail sector, Beacons have been placed at several businesses around Wellington to help make the city more accessible for the visually impaired. BlindSquare app users that go near a business’s beacon will get a Bluetooth signal that triggers a voice message. This message includes i ts name, what goods and services it provides and the shop layout. Retailers, whose participation in the project was free, can easily update this info. Users can also be sent other info such as the names of the roads or nearby bus stops.
While they are very helpful for indoor navigation, in the banking sector, Barclays trialed beacons in the U.K a bit differently than helping people get around. Barclays used beacons to notify staff when a customer with an accessibility need who has opted-in on the app enters the branch. Users of their app can include more info about their accessibility need and a picture of themselves so they do not need to explain how they would like employees to help them every time that they enter.
Besides a wayfinding app, if you represent a city, you could create create a simple tourism app for users to get notifications to read more information about different sites. They can read it themselves or have the info read by someone. This audio is especially helpful for the visually impaired. Because they receive messages with Bluetooth Low Energy, users do not need to have data turned on or GPS on. When someone downloads the app, they would already have the content downloaded on their phone or tablet. All users have to do is turn Bluetooth on. As soon as they are near one of these sites, beacons will trigger the notification to pull up more info via text or audio.
If you want to make your city more accessible, beacons are worth testing. Keep in mind that the same beacon can be used for multiple purposes. If beacons are installed in shops for triggering marketing messages or helping identify when an MVP client enters a store, they can also be used to help guide visually impaired people through a store.
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