Bucharest buses to use Bluetooth beacons to guide the blind

Onyx Beacon's CTO installs a Bluetooth beacon on a Bucharest trolleybus
ON BOARD: Onyx Beacon’s CTO installs a Bluetooth beacon on a Bucharest trolleybus

Five hundred Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are to be installed on buses and trolleybuses on two public transportation lines in the city of Bucharest, Romania to guide visually impaired passengers on and off buses so that they can use public transportation services without needing a personal assistant.

The Smart Public Transport (SPT) project has been put together by Bluetooth beacon technology provider Onyx Beacon in partnership with public transport operator RATB and visually impaired project coordinator Tandem Association. A fleet of forty Onyx Beacon Enterprise Beacon devices have already been installed on buses in the city, with the rollout expected to be complete at the end of August.

“The user leaves from home after setting the mobile application to follow the bus lines that are covering the route he wants to move on,” Onyx Beacon explains. “The bus, equipped with a uniquely identified iBeacon, approaches the station where the user is already waiting. When the vehicle is approaching at a distance of 50 to 60 meters, the user’s mobile phone receives a notification saying that the bus is coming.

“The notification is delivered with a specific audio signal and the voice-over application on the phone reads the notification’s text to the user. When the bus arrives in the station, the iBeacon’s buzzer will repeatedly broadcast a beep signal, knowing from the mobile application and the cloud platform that a passenger interested in that bus line is in the station.

“Thus, the user can precisely identify the desired bus if more than one vehicle arrives simultaneously in the same station. After the user goes on the bus, notifications and buzzer sound signals will automatically stop. The process repeats when the person reaches another bus station and notifies the application that he expects a vehicle from another transit line.

“People with visual disabilities will be able to reach all main public areas of Bucharest by bus and the mobile application will help them to easily find all the connections for moving to any point of interest in the Romanian capital.”

The Smart Public Transport project is one of eight projects selected for funding by ‘Mobile for Good’, a Vodafone Romania Foundation program that encourages the use of technology for social causes.

“The feedback received in the first three days of operation from users already testing the solution is very encouraging and confirms that all components are fully integrated and precisely delivering all the expected information and projected user benefits,” Onyx Beacon adds. “Starting from September 2015 the solution will be completely implemented, fully operational and freely available to all users in Bucharest.

“The Tandem Association plans to convince project sponsors to support the extension of this project in all major cities in Romania in partnership with local associations of visually impaired people and local authorities. Meanwhile, the Onyx Beacon team is already in contact with national or regional associations of people having visual disabilities and public transport companies in several major cities around the world.”

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