Yesterday was the long-anticipated kick-off at San Francisco City Hall. Our CEO Hannes gave a brief presentation about what has been achieved in cooperation with San Francisco International Airport and The LightHouse during the 16 week Entrepreneurship-in-Residence Program of Mayor Ed Lee.
In early 2014, we were selected to help the San Francisco Airport (SFO) create a means for assisting blind and visually challenged travelers as they move from curb-to-gate in Terminal 2.
What a great idea! Audio alerts would go a long way towards providing more independence to visually-impaired travelers.
I have been waiting for this sort of update since I first heard of beacon technology last year. The open source standard ‘AltBeacon‘ should begin picking up steam soon; we will find our shopping experience changed drastically (Imagine getting a unique deal or timed special). I am happy to see it getting applied to more altruistic areas as well.
The beacons are about the size of a bottle cap, cost 20 dollars apiece, and will reportedly run about 4 years without needing to change the batteries. The devices were painted and installed above eye level in order to reduce the visual impact of the roughly 300 beacons installed to the terminal.
There is a similar system going on over-seas at Heathrow airport in London. The coverage does not seem to be quite as complete; as it limits the information it provides to only simple notifications. One interesting difference is that the beacons in Heathrow also report local data back to an integrated system. This allows the system to provide alerts back to airport personnel; such as drop in temperatures or if the beacon begins moving for any reason.
Beacons are just beginning to be adopted in general areas. Shopping centers, museums, movie theaters (Think about a partnership with RunPee!), and sports stadiums are all slowing starting to roll out beacon technology. It will be interesting when my phone can navigate me to the best price for a coffee or a specific sandwich while I am waiting for a plane or my wife to finish shopping!