Mobile

SFO unveils app to help blind travelers navigate the airport

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Even major U.S. airports are climbing onto the app bandwagon.

In a first, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has unveiled a prototype smartphone app that will help people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired navigate through the passenger terminals of the country’s 7th largest airport without a chaperone.

The app was a joint development between SF mayor Ed Lee’s so-called “Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program” and a company specializing in indoor navigation technology called Indoor. It took 16 weeks to develop.

SFO has dispersed 500 wireless beacons in a terminal for a test run that audibly alerts visually impaired passengers to relevant “points of interest” like bathrooms, food stalls, power outlets to power up the cell or laptop, and boarding gates, an airport spokesman said.

To be sure, the app is still being fine tuned and tweaked, SFO spokesman Doug Yakel told VentueBeat, and will likely be ready for widespread use in Terminal 2 sometime in the spring.

The idea for the app came out of SFO’s close relationship with Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually impaired, a Bay Area school. Yakel said. He noted that SFO employees routinely attend sensitivity classes at the organization, and from there, the app idea took hold.

“We’ve got a lot more testing to do,” Yakel said.