Media release: App for blind and visually impaired people

The smartphone as a personal travel assistant


Neuhausen am Rheinfall, 22 October 2018 – In public transport, important information such as route numbers and stop names is provided in the form of visual information. A new app shall now give guidance to passengers who have difficulties with reading such information or cannot read it at all. It was developed jointly by Trapeze-Elgeba, a subsidiary of Trapeze Switzerland GmbH, the Swiss Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Lions Club International Multi-District 102 Switzerland-Liechtenstein and VisorApps. Pilot projects are already underway at two Swiss transport companies in Basel and Zug.


Mobility is very important to most people. We take it for granted that we can enter a bus or tram at a stop and exit at our destination. However, what sounds so simple and easy is often difficult for blind and visually impaired people: Is the vehicle that just arrives one of the right route? Which of the different buses that stand in line here is “my bus”? At which stop do I have to get off? And where precisely is an open door that I can use to board or alight?


Barrier-free access to public transport: Independent Travelling Orientation System INTROS

Transport service providers are required by law to make their services available also to passengers with physical limitations. These requirements aim at barrier-free access to stops and vehicles. The Independent Travelling Orientation System (INTROS) helps transport service providers to implement these requirements.


What does the INTROS app for the passenger feature?

Jointly with several partner organisations, Trapeze is developing a solution to make it easier for those passengers to use public means of transport. They can use the app on a suitable mobile device to select the desired route and direction at a stop and the app's voice function then signals the arrival of the right vehicle. Moreover, an acoustic signal given by the app indicates the location of the proper vehicle door and opens it. In addition to this, it signals to the driver that a person may need special attention.

During the journey, the app provides information about the next stops and assists the passenger in communicating the stop request to the driver. At larger stops with several routes, the app helps finding the precise location of the right vehicle and of the entrance.


INTROS vehicle module with BLE radio technology (Bluetooth Low Energy) and audio functions

Except for a receiver for the mobile device's signals, no further installation and no additional system is necessary in the vehicle. The signals are received by the on-board computer and processed to suit the function control in the vehicle and the information on the mobile device. The system works with both Trapeze on-board computers and those of other manufacturers.

 
Easy installation, no background system required

The system architecture chosen provides decisive advantages over other solutions – it is:

  • Independent: Not depending on the smartphones having an internet connection with a trip planning system; no SIM card required in the vehicle module
  • Lean: Can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively
  • Open: Can be integrated flexibly with existing Trapeze or other manufacturers’ on-board computers
  • Remote serviceable: Analysis and software updates without entering the vehicle

 

Joint development – perfectly fitting result: Project partners from various areas

The Lions Club International Multiple District 102 Switzerland-Liechtenstein conceived and set up the cooperation project within the framework of its 100th anniversary.

Schweizerischer Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband (SBV), i.e. the Swiss association of blind and visually impaired people, represens these passengers and their interests during the development of the app.

VisorApps, a company based in Dresden, Germany, is specialised in software and apps for blind and visually impaired people.

The transport operator Zugerland Verkehrsbetriebe AG (ZVB) of Zug, Switzerland, is running a trial on a route that services a school for the blind.

The transport operator Baselland Transport AG (BLT) of Basel, Switzerland, is also running a trial on a bus route.

Trapeze-Elgeba, based in Bad Honnef (D), provides the connection of the app to the on-board system of the buses.
All partners participate in the financing of the project. The project was launched in August 2018 and is to be finished and evaluated by next December.