BlindSquare and Beacons

We're working with the Blind Foundation and Radiola to introduce a new product which helps people with sight loss to navigate the city and its businesses.

What is BlindSquare?

BlindSquare is a new project that is aimed at customers and visitors who are blind or have low vision or a print disability. Using the BlindSquare Event iPhone navigation app and beacons, this service allows customers with sight loss the opportunity to explore their city with independence. 

As app-users pass by shops and businesses that are ‘BlindSquare Enabled’, the app will provide a spoken description of the business, including its name, what goods or services it provides and the shop layout. The app also provides users with other information such as the names of the roads they are walking along, or where the bus stops are.

How does BlindSquare work?

A single battery-powered device located inside the doorway of shops and businesses ‘communicates’ with the iPhones of people who have the app installed. This device is known as a beacon and is pre-programmed with information about the shop or business. The device also has a prerecorded ‘departure’ message that provides information for people when they leave the shop, including what street they are about to walk onto and how to access transport such as buses, etc.

Where are the BlindSquare beacons located?

BlindSquare beacons locations

What is a beacon?

A beacon is a small battery-powered unit, about the size of a matchbox, which silently broadcasts a Bluetooth signal that BlindSquare Event recognises and converts to a voice message on the user’s iPhone. These are freestanding devices and have no effect on any other technologies (WiFi/security systems, etc.) The app is available free of charge to anyone in Wellington. While intentionally designed to benefit people who are blind or have low vision, it is available to all.

What do I need to do to get a beacon installed?

We are seeking your support by letting us put one of these tiny beacons inside your business entrance. They can easily be attached discretely onto a ceiling or a wall. We would also like to add a small sticker to your window promoting and raising awareness to the wider public and demonstrating your participation to others on your street. We will be promoting the graphic locally, nationally and internationally, so this will be a great marketing tool for your company.

We’ll consult with you as to what messages would be heard by the user entering your location, the correct name of the business and what you specialise in, etc.

Will there be a cost?

The project is a partnership between Wellington City Council, Blind Foundation, Radiola Smart Transit, and BlindSquare. Participating in the project is cost-free as the beacons will be provided by these partners, as well as their maintenance, for at least the first couple of years.

How do I download the app?

A special version of BlindSquare called BlindSquare EVENT is now available on the iTunes store for free and unlimited use while in Wellington, but only works on iPhone 4S or newer. An Android version is pending release.

How do I get involved?

The Council, the Blind Foundation, Radiola Smart Transit, and BlindSquare are initially rolling out 200 BlindSquare beacons to a selected area of the Wellington CBD. For more information contact Council's accessibility team or Thomas Bryan from the Blind Foundation.