Vision

Vision Australia came to Transpire with the vision of creating a meaningful and useful proof of concept to address the needs of vision impaired people. Based on accessibility research, a project was born to develop an application to allow vision impaired people to independently navigate new areas by leveraging advances in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons. The proof of concept was a collaboration between Transpire, Vision Australia and the City of Melbourne.

Solution

Transpire designed and developed an iOS application to interact with beacons at Campbell Arcade in the City of Melbourne, allowing the vision impaired to navigate multiple entrances and exits and points of interest through to Flinders St station.

Bluecat Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons were chosen as they were ideal for pinpointing the location of smartphones indoors, where GPS and Wi-Fi isn’t effective. The solution allows the beacons to send alerts and notifications to the app that then provided detailed instructions for the user to navigate through the area.

The project was broken into two phases to help iterate quickly once the base requirements and technology was created. Phase 1 included gathering high level requirements from all parties and then building the application. Phase 2 involved field testing (walkthroughs) with and without vision impaired people to help further refine the proof of concept.

Using an iterative based project methodology, multiple run-throughs were conducted to validate the concept that it is possible to use BLE beacons to navigate areas where GPS is not appropriate. The prototype validated that each beacon activated at the appropriate time and provided the user with the correct information to navigate through Campbell Arcade successfully, with a smooth user experience.

Impact

The Transpire built technology successfully allowed vision impaired people to navigate a new area accurately and confidently. The proof of concept provides a number of exciting opportunities for this technology to be used more widely to help increase accessibility of the City of Melbourne and also Vision Australia.

Following the initial trial a second site at the Vision Australia office in Kooyong was built to allow Vision Australia to more easily demonstrate the technology, conduct more users testing, and provide additional feedback loops with vision impaired people visiting the office.