News that London Underground is to start new trials of in-station ‘beacons’ which send directions and other information to smartphone users has been welcomed by transport accessibility campaigners.
The beacons use bluetooth signals to beam information directly to passengers’ phones and can be used to send network updates, information about a station’s heritage and audible directions to aid navigation within stations.
A limited trial of the technology was carried out at Pimlico station earlier this year in conjunction with the Royal London Society for Blind People’s Youth Forum and a larger trial is now due to start next Spring.
The trial is part of London Underground and Transport for London’s ongoing programme to use technology “to enhance the quality of customers’ journeys. “
Mohammed Mohsanali, chair of campaign group Transport for All, described the beacons as “an exciting, promising innovation that could enable more visually impaired people to use the Tube independently. “
However with hundreds of staff posts being axed as part of the closure of ticket offices, Mr Mohsanali warned that “the majority of visually impaired transport users are not smartphone users, so beacon technology cannot replace audio announcements and trained, visible members of staff.”