SFO trials iBeacon to assist visually-impaired passengers

Airport demonstrates prototype phone application which can guide passengers through terminal

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has unveiled a prototype version of a smartphone application which can help visually-impaired passengers to navigate through an airport terminal.

SFO trials iBeacon to help visually
A Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired person makes her way through the terminal

The prototype app works in conjunction with approximately 500 beacons located throughout the terminal to audibly call out various points of interest, including gate boarding areas, restaurants, restrooms, ATMs, VIP lounges, information points, baggage claim and even power outlets.

Routing-by-voice and radius search for POIs, leveraging Apple’s Voiceover for iOS feature, supports visually impaired people who may require additional assistance to find their way through the airport.

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

The prototype version will undergo additional testing and refinement before being released for use by all passengers.

Expected full rollout is Q4 2014.

iBeacon trials at airports

iBeacon trials have been taking place at airports around the world.

  • Helsinki Airport will soon be the first airport in the world to track passengers throughout the airport, from parking, through check-in to shopping and departure gates
  • Japan Airlines (JL) is starting a trial of iBeacon and smartwatches at Tokyo Haneda’s Domestic Terminal One
  • easyJet, the UK’s largest airline, has become the first airline to trial iBeacon technology across Europe to help passengers navigate their way through the airport
  • Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers at London Heathrow will become some of the first people to experience a new technology designed to give personal notifications to their phones via Apple’s iBeacon technology