September 20, 2019

RFID Technology Makes Navigation More Accessible

Man with guide dog, using RFID technologyOne of our special interests is the use of technologies such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (near field communication) in the area of disability. The wide availability of accessible smart phones and the relative low cost of developing applications for them opens the door to many possibilities. A story written by Alena Roberts and recently published in the Matilda Ziegler Magazine describes the Talking Tags RFID Wayfinding project of Guide Dogs for the Blind of the UK that uses RFID technology to aid both indoor and outdoor navigation. Here is the original story reprinted here with permission:

 Using RFID Technology to Make Indoor and Outdoor Navigation Accessible

by Alena Roberts

Navigating to new locations has become progressively more accessible for the blind in recent years. In fact, last year I did a whole series on low cost accessible GPS options. Unfortunately, as awesome as GPS is, it’s limited primarily to the outdoors. So what this means is that we can now get to our destination’s front door, but we may not know how to get to where we need to be once we’re inside. Thanks though to a new partnership between Guide Dogs in the UK and the University of Redding, this problem may also soon be solved. The Talking Tags Way Finding Project is using RFID technology to overcome the limitations of GPS.

So how does the system work? The system comprises of three components: RFID tags, a handheld receiver, and a database of prerecorded messages for each tag. The tags themselves are usually as small as a credit card, so they can be put essentially everywhere. RFID also doesn’t require the user to find the tag, but simply to be near enough for the receiver to find it. Once the receiver finds the tag, the message is spoken. It’s that simple.

RFID technology has been used for years in industrial shipping applications and warehouse inventory to track products because it’s a simple system that doesn’t take up much space or carry a high cost. By using the technology for indoor navigation, this would be great for all kinds of situations including malls or other buildings that have multiple stores or offices. It could also be used at bus stops and even intersections to let the user know where they are. All of this can be accomplished very easily without the addition of any large equipment.

Here are some of the features of the Talking Way Finding system.
- The Talking Tag can either be temporary or permanently placed
- The tags can be used indoors or outdoors
- Different languages can be used
- Low cost of installation, running, and maintenance
- The handheld receiver is light weight and will last all day
- A Smart Phone app could be created to avoid the need of a special receiver

The system is still in prototype stage, but it’s Guide Dogs’ hope that the system will be available for use in 2012 or 2013. Visit the Talking Tags project site to learn more about the project.