Mister Beacon Episode #74
Open Standard for Audio WayfindingMay 30, 2018
A UK based nonprofit has created the first internationally recognized standard for accessible audio navigation - helping visually impaired people travel independently, removing barriers to employment and interacting with friends and family. With the number of visually impaired estimated to be 295 million and increasing, Wayfindr saw a lack of accessibility solutions and a lack of consistency which was impacting young people in particular. In order to fix the fragmentation created by different offerings, they created an open standard for indoor navigation (ITU-T F.921). This enables venues, such as a metro station, to create detailed audio navigation instruction with help from Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons. We talk to Tiernan Kenny, Head of Communications, Public Affairs, and Standards at Wayfindr about the advantages and limitations of different indoor location metrics, how their standard can help the visually impaired and beyond, and why all venues should be implementing audio wayfinding today.
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Steve Statler 0:17
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This week, we're going to be talking about beacons for blind people for partially sighted people with Tiernan Kenny, who's the Head of Communications, public affairs and standards for Wayfindr. Deanna, and thanks so much for joining us on the show.
Tiernan Kenny 0:36
Thanks for the invitation.
Steve Statler 0:37
Yeah, I love what you guys are doing. We're going to talk about a bit about the history of some of the projects that your organization's been doing that led up to this standard. I want to pick your brains about what's in the standard, I think it's pretty unusual beacons and standards don't always go well together. There's a lot of proprietary stuff. And I think it's really great that you are capturing something that will hopefully help people deploy beacons and in railway stations and other places to help partially sighted people. And my personal belief is this could have much broader implications than just the philanthropic piece, which is obviously commendable. But I think it could really help the beacon ecosystem. So hopefully, anyone that got a big public venue will pay attention to what we have to talk about. But maybe we should start off with, with a brief explanation of who Wayfinder are.
Tiernan Kenny 1:39
Sure. So Wayfindr is nonprofit organization, we're based in London, in the United Kingdom, were incorporated as a subsidiary of our SPC, which is the Royal Society for blind children. So that's a charity based in the UK, but works with children and young people up to the age of 25, who are blind or visually impaired. And it was initially formed as a partnership between RSP C, and us to us to is a digital design studio. So you might know them afford the Monument Valley games or for people here in the UK at the Barclays mobile phone application.
Steve Statler 2:15
Very good. And so how long has the organization been going forward? Did you say?
Tiernan Kenny 2:20
So theory setup in early 2015.
Steve Statler 2:23
So this has been going for a while?
Tiernan Kenny 2:27
It hasn't been? Yeah, making slow but steady progress.
Steve Statler 2:30
How? How much progress have you made? So you have a standard out that's been blessed by the International Telecommunications Union actually has a itu number associated with it. So that's an achievement, what else would you say the organization has achieved?
Tiernan Kenny 2:52
Well, we moved to the standard kind of pray late 2015. Initially, when clay finally started, we were looking at a very specific challenge of young visually impaired people wants to be able to travel on the London Underground independently. And then after playing around with that, for a while, we came to the conclusion that having the standard would have much more global impact. So the process of developing the Wayfindr open standard itself, we'd say it's quite an achievement that took a little longer than a year. But what was really great was that we got input from so many different groups of people. So you know, kind of first and foremost, vision impaired people would be using the service at the end of the day, but also on off other academics and experts, and also the technology providers, both kind of the beacon manufacturers, and then also the application developers so and the outcome is kind of quite robust and consensus based on then you mentioned the International Telecommunications Union standards. So without approval, we have the world's first internationally recognized standards for accessibility navigation on the it are also quite great for that as well, because they're starting to see a lot more work on accessibility, in light of the implementation of the UN treaty and on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So Wayfindrs bit of a flagship for them as well. And then in terms of what we're up to now, we're doing some work in the United States with the Consumer Technology Association, to have the standard recognized under the CTA and C program. And I will possibly do something similar in Japan in the near future. And also obviously, as part of the process of kind of creating and CO creating the standard. We've been doing these audio navigation trials kind of all over the world. So we've done stuff in off the top of my head, London, Norway, Spain, Italy, and Australia and couple of other places where I've helped that with a little bits and pieces. And that's obviously made people aware of kind of the fantastic potential of inter navigation technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. And so hopefully we can keep that momentum going.
Steve Statler 4:53
So is there an app? I know there is kind of an app there's there's like there's a mall lap. But this really came out of hard won lessons learned in the London Underground. And
Tiernan Kenny 5:07
yeah, pretty much so. I mean, as I said, the initial challenge was those young people who wants to be able to find their own by themselves using technology they're familiar with, which is effectively the smartphones that they all use every day. And the first thing that happens when you come to an underground environment is that things like kind of GPS or phone signal aren't really available. So that's, obviously we came naturally to kind of Bluetooth solution. And it did start very simply with a massive, massive list of assumptions that we kind of either validated or rejected three time. And and then obviously, it's time to start, we started looking at different kinds of academic frameworks to test that the kinds of things we believe in, or that we've read about or have been informed about. And then as a result of that, we've come up with things that are included in the standard or not included in the standard at the end of the day. But
Steve Statler 5:56
if I want to use this, if I want to try this out, how do I do that?
Tiernan Kenny 6:02
Oh, sorry, actually aspect. Way, find your Well, what we have is a demo of a mobile application. So it's actually it's up on GitHub, it's I think it's under an MIT license. But it basically means anybody who wants to can go and play around to this. And that is designed to facilitate the trials that we do, as I mentioned, so it collects quite a lot of information about exactly when audio instructions are given to people. And then through combination kind of camera can still fluid, also look at how people react to them. But as I said, it is only a demo app, because you have to feed quite a lot of information into it to make it function. So if we had this in kind of the App Store or the Play Store, people would just download it all the time claimed that it doesn't work, which would not be productive. There are more and more indoor navigation apps other kinds of commercially available, so an awful lot of people who provide them are members of the Wayfindr community said they do the kind of the full commercial installations. And obviously, we've partnered some of them in the past for some of the different projects we've done. And I should also say my colleague Yanis, who is our kind of tech lead, is working on a small piece of code at the moment for the demo app, which would allow someone who understands kind of the basics of coding to download the app. And then with a beacon simulator, which is basically an app, you can put in your mobile phone setup, a kind of small demo of audio navigation, kind of wherever they are in their home or their office. So we're hoping to get more people interested in and excited about the technology.
Steve Statler 7:33
Are there any production apps that this standard is or any of this code is manifest itself in?
Tiernan Kenny 7:42
Yeah, quite a few. So I'll name a few of them with the caveat that there probably are more that I just can't remember off the top of my head. So there is one called bony light steps. And which is a Turkish company, which are increasingly big in the United States. Another bit here in the UK as well. There's another one called y GA, my dream companion, which is another Turkish company, and that app is provided through Tarik cell, which is one of the major network operators in Turkey, then there is right here in Israel, which is actually very big in Israel, I think they have couple of 1000 monthly active users. And then there's a couple of other ones like step here and so on. As I say there are more, and both of them are in the Wayfindr community.
Steve Statler 8:28
Right? And any in the UK.
Tiernan Kenny 8:33
And a couple of other active in the UK, Bush, I'm not kind of UK born and bred companies, if that makes sense. Okay,
Steve Statler 8:40
all right. Very good. How do you guys fund yourself.
Tiernan Kenny 8:46
So in the good old days, the early days, Wayfinder actually got $1 million from google.org, which is kind of the the cherry who wing of Google and because they'd set up kind of specific methods of funding ideas that they thought were very good, but which might struggle to reach any kind of scale. So that is effectively what funded all the work on the first iteration of the open standards. And then in November last year, we received some money from the Big Lottery Fund, which is the entity that distributes funds from the UK National Lottery. And that's where it's some kind of very specific things over the next two or three years. And there is some kind of commercial income for us in terms of the trials that we do. And which to be honest, kind of at the end of the day just about covers the costs on a couple of other kind of charitable grants we've received. And the neat thing about Wayfindr because it's nonprofit, we don't necessarily need huge amount of revenue to keep going. But because we're a subsidiary of a charity, the charity is our current tour. So we equally can't run up a huge amount of debt here on the deficit because that would create a problem for the charity in terms of governance. No
Steve Statler 10:00
makes sense? Well, I do want to talk about the standard and having gone through it, it seems like it's actually more than a standard. It's also kind of a collection of best practices and pointers to resources and so forth, which I think is very, very helpful for people who are looking at not only your application, but any application in this space, but maybe a philosophical question, which is, do you do you feel like there's, you know, what's the motivation for an organization to implement this? And is there I'm an optimist, and so I kind of have this feeling that there's, there's money to be made from helping people if you can help people. There's often kind of other benefits other than just philanthropy. Do you believe that? Or do you think it just needs to be something that's, that's pure and simply philanthropic?
Tiernan Kenny 11:01
And? Well, I think certainly there is benefits from using a standard like this. I mean, kind of first and foremost, it's free. So there's not a huge cost to taking on board. Yeah, one of the main advantages, we would say to people who are looking at implementing a system that complies with the standard is that using the standard provides a consistent experience for a visually impaired person, whether they're in your building on some kind of metric system or anywhere else. And at a global scale. That's what will make vision impaired people start using inter alia, navigation, because then it will be very clear what kind of information it provides exactly when it provides the information and how that dovetails with the person's primary mobility aid, if they use what's the kind of the cane or the guide dog. And if you don't have this kind of accessibility standards, you could end up with these kinds of fragmented all the navigation solutions. And what would effectively happen as from our previous experience is that you would have very small groups of users who use one or two navigation apps that they know and understand. But if they were to go somewhere where that particular app wasn't available, are somewhere they've never been before. They wouldn't use a navigation app because they wouldn't know what the experience is going to be to be in an unfamiliar environment to try to navigate trying to use a complimentary their body navigation. And the experience would not be very good. And in some cases, the cognitive load would be too great for the person to think tank through using it.
Steve Statler 12:27
That makes sense. So you have a common approach, which will a it's difficult to write these apps and have them actually be usable and useful. It's I'm sure there's a lot of apps for the blind that have have failed or partially sighted, I should say. But what you're saying is, by making it consistent, then it's kind of this, we're going to increase the chances that you can go from one app to another app, and people will actually find this thing to be usable, because there's consistency in terms of the way you give the directions. And and that sort of thing. Maybe we should just talk about the standard. And I'd like to go back to this question of what's in it for and why should organizations be doing this and the scope of the standard, but what what's in this thing, what is in the standard.
Tiernan Kenny 13:16
So basically, I'd say at the very high level, the standard should give you as, say, a venue owner, all the information, you need to figure out how to kind of develop and roll out an audio navigation system into your estate that is usable for people who are blind or visually impaired. So in practice, what that means is it has an awful lot of information about how you should structure an audio instruction you give to someone and what kind of features of the environment you need to inform people about. And then as you've kind of pointed out, as well already, there is a good bit of information about different ways you can use Bluetooth beacons to act as the kind of the indoor positioning element of the navigation system. So the main thing is the the environmental features, to be honest, understand what information is useful for someone when they're approaching an elevator or a ticket barrier. And at what stage you need to give them the information in order for them to be able to react to it. And how often you need to reassure people that they're on the right path that they're going in a straight line, things like that.
Steve Statler 14:21
Yeah, and I was interested there was like even this issue of whether you want to tell people the most direct way of getting to where they're going or, or the safest way. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Tiernan Kenny 14:37
Yeah, sure. So if you were to get an accessibility consultant and take them to a shopping center or a train station, they would be able to look at kind of the diagrams of that space, look at how people move through it and plus what they would consider the most accessible route which is a combination of the fastest route and the safest route. So for example, if you see visually impaired people who are using a cane very often they would walk along a wall. And they would be using their cane to keep in touch where the wall is, because that's one of their ways of orientation themselves in relation to the building. So if you were on the large train station, it might take you longer to navigate it if you're walking around by the walls. And but if you and if you were to walk straight through the middle, that could be quicker, equally, maybe more dangerous, somebody's vision impaired, because there are more people or more kind of temporary elements. So that's one of the kind of the interesting things in the standard where as in an abstract, you got to find the most accessible rich, but once you have all that kind of information, that's something you can start to look at. And something you can talk to the potential users about. Because, you know, people who use that space, say two or three times a week, would say, this element is particularly difficult for me, or I would never take that pathway because this is much more likely to happen if I do that.
Steve Statler 15:55
I mean, one of the arguments against this sort of thing is, if this is a space I traveled through regularly, then I really, as a partially sighted person, I don't really need this because I know it well. Or if it's a place that I only go through occasionally, then I can just ask for help. How would you address that? Criticism?
Tiernan Kenny 16:20
I suppose the to the first point, I would say, I think, as you see, more and more of these apps become available, they will allow themselves to be personalized for the users. So someone might be able to set say, their home train station or their home bus station. And from that get kind of less guidance than they would if it was someplace they've never been to before. And to your point, that kind of asking someone for assistance, we started off because, as I said, we did a bunch of young people who wants to be able to travel independently, which was kind of very important to them on a kind of personal on the group level. And, you know, speaking from experience in the UK, there are assistive services available on public transport, but in some cases, you need both and kind of 24 or 48 hours in advance. So if you're someone who's visually impaired, and you decide, evening, you decide you want to go visit your friend tomorrow, it kind of might already be too late. And there's also other instances where you would have train stations outside large cities that are unmanned for large periods of the day. So for someone who's looking to navigate that space, either assisted or independently, be quite difficult. And that's one of the ways this system can really come in handy.
Steve Statler 17:30
That makes sense. And you've got some nice video footage on the website of young people talking about how important this is. And you watch that, and it's hard to to not be moved by the need to do this. So are there any other kind of examples that you can speak to where these kinds of apps have made a difference to specific people?
Tiernan Kenny 17:53
Yeah, I mean, I give you kind of an example just before Christmas, we're doing a very small trial in Venice in St. Mark's Square, which some people listening printed is kind of the main large square in Venice. And my colleague, Yunus is there as well. And there's a woman who was I think, in their mid 50s, who is using our demo app, along with her cane, and she was walking around, and she was kind of very happy, she loved it. But she was with her sister and her sister got kind of very emotional, and came up to Yanis. And she was incredibly grateful. And she said, You know, I never thought I'd see the day where my sister would be able to walk around by herself and find a way around without me having to worry that she might injure yourself, or that something might happen to her. So that there's loads of kinds of little stories like that, that come out when you get people to see it, and or to test it. And then there's also some other kind of quite interesting videos we have of people in space, like a shopping center, who have very, very limited vision, and maybe kind of a little bit of like perception in one night. And they walk around with a demo, and they're able to find their way around. And, you know, they're kind of really amazed that this so all of that is kind of quite inspirational, in a way. And you know, even again, one of the companies mentioned during the the my dream companion app with Tarik sell. The Product Manager for Turkcell is kind of quite severely visually impaired yourself. So I mean, for her, it's not only something that allows her to kind of improve the lives of people have similar conditions. But it's also provided Tara kind of pathway into employment as well, which is another major challenge but visually impaired people in general tend to face
Steve Statler 19:27
Do you, let's go back to this question about the venue owners perspective, because the fact is that most venues haven't done this. And it seems to me that they they should because the cost of beacons is really not that high. In fact, you let's get into the weeds of the standard briefly before we come back to that question. So you outlined kind of two approaches to putting beacons sighting beacons in a venue. Can you talk to what those two approaches are?
Tiernan Kenny 20:02
You're putting me on the spot now.
Steve Statler 20:05
Let me help you out the whole sort of proximity versus trilateration approach. And I mean, we can don't need to get into the technicalities of it. But I thought it was kind of interesting observation about the number of beacons required for one versus the other and how it suits. You know, the suitability for actually going to guiding blind people. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Tiernan Kenny 20:32
Well, Jeremy, if you're looking at the first option, which is the much more kind of path dependent on that where you're looking at each beacon to give out a particular message dependent on the path the user selected, and it works, maybe when you're in kind of very linear simplistic environments, but or if you're looking to provide a lot of kind of contextual point of interest information. So in a shopping center, be able to say to someone, and your besides our address has been besides Primark or something like that. And
Steve Statler 21:02
So this is the proximity approach. So you basically you put the beacon major kind of intersections or points of interest. And it seems like the advantage there is you can have a sparse a number of beacons, potentially,
Tiernan Kenny 21:19
Potentially, but also maybe an increased risk that you would potentially lose people in a space where they scope to go off the path or approach a beacon from the wrong direction, if that makes sense. Yes. Whereas obviously, with trilateration, as you said, it requires probably more beacons. But depending on the app you're using, you have this capacity for a kind of more accurate real time fix on where a person is, and then correction built into the kind of location engineer algorithm.
Steve Statler 21:47
Yeah, so trilateration, the system actually has an x and a y coordinate for the person. And he's using that to issue the guidance, proximity, they may not actually know where the person is, they just know that they're close to a point of interest, and therefore you're giving, giving direction so interesting, I think, for us beacon nerds, it's kind of interesting. And it's also good to know what the implications are for the people that are actually using this, this app. So that's the kind of guidance that you've gotten, I've seen other stuff in the standard about where you position beacons, and how you get people to navigate through busy places. So let's get back to the other point, which is getting big venues to do this, because I've had some experience with this. And I actually think this is part of a bigger trend. Good news is this is part of a bigger trend. And one of the things that Willie art is actually working on for for the ad LLC national emergency address database is putting beacons in to help emergency calls. And it seems to me that if venues need to be thinking about, well, how do I save the lives of people when they have to dial for an ambulance, or police or whatever it is, but they can also have that infrastructure and use it to help people with disabilities? Is it simply a matter of philanthropy on the part of the venue? What are the arguments that we can use to persuade venue owners to divert is more time than capital, I guess, to getting this kind of thing working?
Tiernan Kenny 23:28
Yeah, I mean, the thing, as you've identified I, I'd always say to people is if you're installing this beacon network, this is something you can layer on top of very easily, it's doesn't mean you have to install anything else specific, there's a bit more time involved in terms of app development seriously. But if you were to look at the advantages, you would say, first and foremost, you can get more people to come to your venue, because you've made it more accessible, which, as a venue owner is always more enticing. On then we look kind of specifically visually impaired people, but there are also benefits of all the navigation and for people who aren't visually impaired. I mean, a simple example someone gave me very recently was you could have someone using an indoor navigation app, which just works on the screen if they're fun. And they might go into a shopping center they've never been to before where maybe they don't speak the local language. So they have their phone in their hand, they go into a shop, they buy something, then they have a bag in one hand, their phone and the other, go into a second shop. Now you have a bag in each hand, and you can't hold your phone anymore. But if you can just stick in here, but it'll come to you and so find your way around, you're probably more likely to continue buying things. So I think there is that whole thing as you say about the hardware deployment, allowing you to do multiple things on top of it. There is making your space more accessible for people who are visually impaired and then making your space more usable for people in general. And that's appointed make an awful lot with transportation. And so you'd say in general, if you build a train station or an airport, the building is kind of a fixed size. But very often you find you have more and more people coming through it or more people Any thought would ever come through. So you have a fixed base with an increasing number of people moving through it. But an audio navigation system is the kind of thing that can improve the flow of people. So you can use your infrastructure more effectively. Instead of suddenly saying, oh, we need to build an extension, you know, in an airport, which is a very difficult thing, or an underground train system, which in a place like London is, in some cases, impossible, because if you go left, you hit an underground river. And if you go, right, you had like a play graveyard or something.
Steve Statler 25:28
Yeah, well, and I think another argument I would add to the pot is, if you believe in putting in Beacon infrastructure for commercial reasons, layering on this kind of application on top can give you some political cover. And this may sound a bit mercenary, but traditionally, these beacon ROI is take a while, and you can declare victory. If you can support people with disabilities, then you can declare victory on your project. And that gives you a little bit more breathing space to to get the commercial ROI. So I think for a project owner, it's worthwhile doing it for for that reason, even if the kind of the idea of helping partially sighted people doesn't justify it on its own, on its own merits. Let's just talk a bit about the spaces that you see adopting the standard. It seems like it it was originally very focused on railway stations. But it sounds like it's being used in other places as well.
Tiernan Kenny 26:32
Yeah, so part of the focus on railway stations is because we started off working with TfL. And obviously, that's what they have a lot of in terms of the London Underground.
Steve Statler 26:41
So that's Transport for London, right?
Tiernan Kenny 26:44
Yeah, sorry. And public transport would be a big focus for us, because we're kind of looking more holistically, especially with kind of the RSP see how one of helping visually impaired people live full, independent lives. And a large part of that it's making it possible for them to get out and about. So I mean, we know in the UK, half of vision impaired people don't leave their homes as often as they'd like to. And 79%, you don't have a lot of trouble using public transport. And if you can give people the power to use public transport wherever and whenever they want, it means they can do an awful lot more. So they can go and visit the France and not go to the shops know that they can get their place of work predictably and reliably. So by kind of addressing that one point in kind of their journey or their lifecycle, you can have a very kind of great impact in terms of all the things they can do with their life. And that being said, we get a lot of interest from retail venues. And I think in part that's because, again, I wouldn't be as much of an expert as you I see them as kind of the the early adopters of beacons in many ways, because there are an awful lot of kind of quick wins in the retail industry from using them. So we have a lot of interest from there, which is also good for us. Because, you know, I was told this very funny story a few weeks back by a Scottish guy has been visually impaired for most of his life. And he was just taught how to go to certain places from his home, one of which was to go to a supermarket in the shopping center near his house. And he'd been going there for years. And one day, he wanted to go to this, this health food shop. It's a chain here called Holland and Barrett. So he was saying to the woman that the checkout Oh, you know, I wish there was a hand and bearish on this shopping center. And she said, Are you joking, it's literally next door, you know, but the way he'd been taught and the assistive technology he was using, he had no way of finding them or hurt himself, you know, so he was kind of completely reliant on someone else given that information. And obviously, if he'd known that he probably would have been buying stuff in there for a lot longer.
Steve Statler 28:41
Well, and that's, that's a really great point. And something that you might hear on your website is there's a lot of people who are partially sighted, this is not just about people who are completely blind. It's it's what 285 million people with, with sight loss in the world. And one thing that it's become really clear to me as my parents and in laws are getting older, that actually glaucoma and that sort of vision impairment is something that can can hit many families, as people are living longer lives.
Tiernan Kenny 29:16
Yeah, so you actually theorize? I mean, I think according there is a recent study in The Lancet, which is medical journal here that says the number of blind people worldwide is going to travel between now and 2050. And as he said, That's mainly a result of the world's aging population, because vision impairment is primarily something that happens to older people. So kind of people over the age of 60. So it is a group that people are going to have to start thinking about a lot more in terms of design needs. And I think you both kind of hit the nail on the head when you say that vision impairment as well as something but very often comes on kind of gradually. So it's a my granddad is now registered blind back in the Republic of Ireland. And, you know, myself, my family would have kind of noticed, maybe over the last 10 years that his vision was is getting a bit worse. And he gave up driving maybe eight or nine years ago himself because he didn't feel kind of comfortable. And you'd see, for him to kind of walk around independently, it'd be very difficult. But with someone with them, it's kind of fine. And, you know, we as a family didn't really think about that until someone came along. And from the health service and set out, you realize your grandfather, his site is nice and limited, he's blind. And I think that's going to happen to a lot of families and a lot of people around the world. And again, he's confused a very kind of fiercely independent person. So if this kind of thing was available to him, you might say it could have given them independence for a few more years, probably not for driving, that wouldn't be a great idea. But just insurance to be able to get out in the bay himself and be not necessarily to be have to use audio navigation all the time. But to know, if he found himself, say, in low light conditions, or in an unfamiliar area, you could just kind of stick something over close to his ear and be able to find his way home safely.
Steve Statler 30:56
Well, I think allowing people to get out, is going to help keep them healthier, isn't it it's going to keep them mentally healthier, and just physically healthier, the more we kind of confined people to their homes, then the the the worse the decline is going to be. And so I think it's important that we put this kind of infrastructure in place. One objection that I had was really more of a question that was framed as an objection when I was pitching this to a venue owner that I was working with, was, well, this can't possibly work because you know, blind people can't. You know, how can a smartphone that relies on a visual user interface be helpful to blind people? And we talked about this a bit when we were interviewing Gavin. Neat, neat box. But can you speak to a little bit about the specifics of what it takes to get a phone equipped such that it can be useful to someone that's visually impaired?
Tiernan Kenny 31:56
Oh, sure. I mean, I think as well, there is, when you talk about people who are visually impaired vision impaired, your blind people often leave the idea of someone who has absolutely no vision at all, which very often is not the case, people could have kind of quite good light perception, or just a particularly narrow field of vision or things like that. And from my experience, because, you know, we have kind of quite a few vision impaired people working with us in our SBC, they just take out their iPhone and turn on the assistive mode, which is basically text to speech on from there, they can do everything on their phone that your iPad do, and in some cases, they can do it a lot quicker than I can. So it doesn't require a kind of specialized learning for somebody who's visually impaired. And especially as well, if you were to say now, if you look at older people now who are visually impaired, they wouldn't have grown up using smartphones. So you could say, Look, maybe it'd be a challenge for them certainly use a navigation system that's smartphone based. But if you were to look at, you know what I'd say in broad terms, kind of the next 20 million people to lose their sight, they're probably between the ages of 30 and 60. So they're using smartphones everyday anyway. So I really don't think that's a barrier to kind of adoption or use at all. And in the trials we do, we always make sure it's got a wide range of people. So in terms of the vision impairment, they suffer from the type of primary mobility aid they use, and also their familiarity with technology. And and it's never really come across as a barrier.
Steve Statler 33:21
And tell us a bit about the the headphones as well, because another argument I've heard as well, it's not safe having people who rely on Audible cues having headphones on.
Tiernan Kenny 33:32
So we'd recommend to people is that they use the bone conduction headphones. So they said effectively just in front of your ear on a bone there, which I don't know the name of. But what that effectively means is, you can hear the guidance that's coming through there, but you're also kind of clued into the ambient surrounds these also these no noise leakage from these bone conducting headphones. So I mean, the first time I tried them, I sit in there and work listen to a podcast. And it was so loud and clear. I turned to be honest, I said this must be annoying. Yeah. And he said, I can't hear anything. So and again, it's good because it means someone to be able to use an audio navigation system, without necessarily the people around them knowing that because one of the other reasons when we started with these individual impaired people is they felt when they're using the assistance service on the tube, sorry, at the London Underground, it possibly made them more vulnerable. Because how that works is you're basically escorted through the station by a member of staff who is wearing kind of a high vis vest, who then takes you onto the train and find your seat hopefully. And then when you get to the station, you want to exit that another member of staff comes comes on and kind of the score to you off. But it basically means in between you're on your own. There are people out there who will target people who are visually impaired. I mean, I heard the story a few few weeks back about a woman who was on a bus in London where the the audible stuff information wasn't working. So she missed her stuff. And she went up and asked the driver and he said, Oh, we've gone past it but you know if you just get off the bus and walk back that way get there. So she got off the bus and some other man who was on the bus gone off the bus as well on just motor.
Steve Statler 35:07
Tiernan Kenny 35:09
So I mean, and that's obviously kind of a huge blow to her in terms of her confidence going out in the bank and traveling by herself. So, yeah, that's the thing. I mean that there are people in society who look for vulnerable people to prey on unfortunately.
Steve Statler 35:23
Well, we need to balance that out and do what we can to help this program get going. So you have an audience here who are very, we're very specialist niche audience on the Mr. Beacon podcast people are looking at in the business typically, or looking at deploying the technology, is there any way that we can help what you're doing.
Tiernan Kenny 35:45
And I'd say just first and foremost, when you're talking to venues about deploying or installing beacons, tell them that this is possible. And just make them aware of it. And I said, that would be a very, very helpful step, have a look at the application providers and the way find your community, most of them can layer their solution on top of any different type of Beacon or the various protocols that are available. And just consider getting in touch them and partner with them on a project because and very often, you can start off with a small chance that kind of even a little proof of concept. And once the venue whether it's a shopping center, or a theater, something gets a user group into experiences, the feedback is amazing. And then that will help with the business case in terms of getting the actual full solution adopted, and which will obviously have a business benefit for the people who are selling installing these beacons.
Steve Statler 36:34
Yeah. So and tell us a bit more about this community you talk of?
Tiernan Kenny 36:39
Sure, so the the Wayfindr community is kind of broadly a group of organizations who are interested in the development and adoption of audio navigation solutions across the world. So we do have quite a few beacon manufacturers in there quite a few application providers, and then an awful lot of vision impairment organizations, and kind of the history of Spain, and so on. And because as I've said, whenever we run these trouser projects, it's very important that we get the luck of vision impaired user groups on board. And first of all, to build awareness. And secondly, because we need people to come along and test the systems, and that's normally quite a good place to go. So we also would use them for inputs into updates to the standard. So when we run a trial, we'll set up a research framework, we'll share the outcomes with the group and the community for their feedback and input. And we will also encourage them to share any of their learnings or any of their ideas, about different ways to do things, better ways to do things. And then we can consult within the group. And the ideas, you come to a consensus based addcom, which has everyone's input on this, therefore better as a result, which makes it easier for us to go out and stand over at the validity of the open standards or the ITU standard, when we're talking to people who as you mentioned earlier, don't believe that you can make audio and application work for visually impaired people.
Steve Statler 37:59
Well, I think you've proved that you can. Tiernan, thanks so much for spending time with us. I think this is a really fascinating area, I think you're doing a wonderful job and more, more power to you. And hopefully we can get a few more people deploying these systems.
Tiernan Kenny 38:15
Definitely, that's the hope. I mean, if you look at indoor navigation globally as a market, and it's going to grow very rapidly between that 2022 I'm sure everyone listening is kind of well aware of that, both from the accessibility perspective. And you know, it's very easy to deploy a kind of blue dots indoor navigation system. And it's not a huge amount of extra effort to make it accessible for people who are visually impaired. So we have this really, I'd say, really big opportunity between that and 2020, to do something quite transformational. And if we missed the boat on that, it'll probably be kind of 30 years before people get back around to it. And that was certainly our experience looking at the accessibility of web browsers. So you might have seen in recent years, people have done a lot of work making web browsers accessible if people are visually impaired. And the good news is they are in it. But the bad news is, I mean, web browsers have been around for nearly 30 years. So it basically means since the internet became kind of available to consumers on a mass scale, visually impaired people have struggled to use it. And when you think about how much of our lives we live online now, I mean, we're having this conversation on Skype, how much of a barrier that would be every day if you weren't able to those kinds of things. So hopefully we can learn from that experience, and deliver a better outcome this done.
Steve Statler 39:28
Very good. Well, thanks for the conversation. It's been wonderful having you on the show.
Tiernan Kenny 39:32
Thanks for your time.
Steve Statler 39:39
Yeah, we have the warm up exercise, which is what three songs would you take on a trip to Mars and why?
Tiernan Kenny 39:47
All right, I actually did take the time to write these down. So I wouldn't forget. So the first one there maybe not the most inventive is and Spaceman by the killers because obviously you're going to space I feel it's kind of somewhere for Here's the next one is a similar theme it's starships by Nicki Minaj. It's also rather annoying science. So if you came across any aliens, it might kind of actually drive them away. And the last one is, again, slight knowledge, my Irish heritage, it's dancing in the moonlight spy pen. So, again, it's vaguely space themed, but it's going to take you three or four years to get across to Mars. And you might spend some time in the light of the moon reflected off the sun, so maybe it's appropriate.
Steve Statler 40:32
Yeah, Thin Lizzy was the first band I ever saw Live in Concert saw them at the Hammersmith Odeon when Phil obviously Phil lineup was alive. And it was it was amazing. He this was kind of pretty basic, none of these lasers and that sort of thing. He just shone the reflected the spotlight on the on his guitar and kind of swept it across the audience was I remember it's really an amazing concept. Okay, well thanks for those that's very, very appropriate.