SFO uses smartphone app and iBeacons to guide visually impaired passengers through the terminal

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San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has unveiled a prototype version of a first-of-its-kind app, which can help visually impaired passengers navigate through an airport terminal. The app makes use of iBeacons located throughout Terminal 2, which prompt it to audibly call out various points of interest when they are within the smartphone’s proximity.

“This groundbreaking new innovation offers visually impaired passengers something remarkable: the ability to navigate through SFO independently without assistance,” said John L. Martin, Airport Director, San Francisco International Airport.

The app has been developed through the Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, which paired SFO with a company called Indoo.rs, an expert in indoor navigation technology. The two organisations worked together to develop the app in just 16 weeks.

SFO held a special press event to mark the launch of the prototype app
SFO held a special press event to mark the launch of the prototype app, in which a visually impaired passenger used the technology to navigate her way through the terminal. (Photo credit: SFO)

A total of 500 iBeacons, which make use of Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) technology to communicate with smartphones, have been installed throughout the terminal, from the front entrance to the boarding gates, as well as in baggage reclaim for arriving passengers.

When a passenger is near boarding gates, restaurants and power outlets, for example, the app informs them by calling out details. The prototype version will now undergo further testing, before being released for use by the general public.

SFO’s Martin added: “I appreciate the collaboration with Indoo.rs and the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, made possible by Mayor Ed Lee’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program.”

Airport Terminal of the Future Members Forum
The Airport Terminal of the Future Members Forum will take place at FTE Global 2014, 24-26 September, Las Vegas.

SFO to present in Airport Terminal of the Future Forum at FTE Global 2014

San Francisco International Airport and Gensler will deliver a joint presentation in the Airport Terminal of the Future Members Forum at FTE Global 2014, which will take place in Las Vegas from 24-26 September 2014.

SFO’s Judi Mosqueda, Associate Deputy Airport Director, Design & Construction, and Nupur Sinha, Aviation Practice Area Northwest Associate, Gensler, will address participants with a presentation entitled: ‘Gensler and SFO are working together on the REACH (Revenue Enhancement and Customer Hospitality) programme – an aspirational document for architects, designers, tenants and SFO employees. How is this collaboration progressing and will REACH set a benchmark for other airports to aspire to?’

» More information on the Airport Terminal of the Future Members Forum

» Register to attend FTE Global 2014



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  1. Glen Granger

    Is a very noble idea but is not practical with the majority of mobile phones are Android.

  2. Lynne Madera

    This is fantastic. Independence, the right information at critical decision points, and support for major necessities and minor conveniences. Now that’s what I call equal accessibility.