If we are sighted we don’t think much of how we get to point A to B. We see the signs for exits, doctors’ names on the wall or what building we are near on a campus. For a person with visual impairments, this is a huge area of frustration. Outdoor GPS has helped millions of people to get from their home to various locations for over a decade. However, this is not the same success that indoor GPS has had. You are left stranded in the middle of the room waiting for someone to point you in the right direction.
When I started to research this for a student that uses a wheelchair and is visually impaired, I learned how frustrating this was. The first thing I learned was that there were pros and cons to each system. The biggest hindrance that I noted was there are solutions out there, but none are consistent. Each maker of indoor navigation has their own beacon markers. The beacons markers are not shared between competitors. This means Beacon A Inc. cannot be recognized by Beacon B Inc users. So we have an alphabet soup of beacons, solutions and not one solution that pulls all the technology together.
There is a long way to go in indoor navigation. As a person that has sight, it frustrates me that there is no one simple solution. Technology has come so far yet we still lack in a basic mobility option for individuals that wish to be free to roam and wander. I am not saying there should be one app or device that needs to be used, but it would be wonderful if developers would open source their beacons so apps or devices can share the knowledge. It would be wonderful to be able to go into any building or airport and locate your gate (says the person sighted person that went down the wrong concourse).
One of the countries that are progressive in making the city of Gaziantep in Turkey, they turned it into a “smart city.”. The service and technology is constantly-evolving service and application designed by Turkcell and the Young Guru Academy. My Dream Companion” app which includes transportation, shopping center navigation, and audio-description. The technology is being brought to this country and being programmed for airports. Boni technology is working with their partner in Turkey (Turkish firm VesLabs) to bring the same technology to the United States. This is exciting because it means that more people won’t have to suffer my fate of being directionally challenged in large noisy, confusing places like airports, train stations, and big cities. Companies are starting to explore how to move forward in indoor navigation.
Airports that I have found have the technology to support the blind, San Francisco and Kentucky with three more coming this year. Then you have Penn Station in NY. Soon maybe all things can talk to each other, so you don’t need 10 apps to get where you want to go.