Five hundred buses in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, will soon receive Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons. The beacons will serve to guide blind passengers on and off buses, without the need for any assistance. So far, forty of the BLE beacons have been installed already, with the rest expected to be in place by the end of August.
How does the system work?
A visually impaired user would set up the app on his or her phone before leaving home. The phone application would then allow the user to follow whichever bus lines he or she needs to complete the trip. Each bus in this system has a unique ID in the form of an iBeacon, which alerts the phone of the visually impaired person as to the fact that the bus is arriving. The alert is sent when the iBeacon-equipped bus is 50-60 meters away from the station. Once the bus actually arrives, it will also be informed by iBeacon of the fact that there’s a blind passenger in the station. The bus will begin to beep repeatedly so as to inform the app user of its location even if there’s multiple buses in the station at the time. The beeping stops once the passenger has boarded.
BLE system will simplify travel for tens of thousands of blind in Romania.
Now, thanks to the system, tens of thousands of blind people will be able to easily access any area of Bucharest. They will be able to board, leave, and also transfer buses with ease, since the mobile app will help users find connecting buses easily. By the start of September, the whole Bluetooth system will be up and running, and available for free to anyone in Bucharest.
Who came up with and funded this program?
The program is the result of a project known as Smart Public Transport (SPT). It was organized by Onyx Beacon, provider of the bluetooth beacon technology, RATB (Bucharest’s public transportation agency), and visually impaired project coordinator Tandem Association. The SPT is one of eight projects that received funding by aVodafone Romania Foundation called “Mobile for Good.” The Mobile for Good program is meant to promote the use of mobile technology for social causes.