Guide Dogs Victoria may be best known for its iconic 4 legged guides, but is now launching a pilot program to test a tiny electronic beacon system that links beacons with the BlindSquare app to help people with vision loss navigate internal spaces where GPS is often unreliable.

Beacons are small wireless devices that emit a low-strength Bluetooth signal to nearby enabled receivers such as a smartphone. Strategically placed and coded with the right information, a user can obtain this relevant information about their surrounding and instructions on where they need to go. The pilot is happening in partnership with Public Transport Victoria and City of Melbourne over an eight-month period at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station, where Beacons will be set up in multiple locations and be updated with realtime changes such as escalator outages.

Launched as part of International White Cane Day, the pilot is expected to improve the independence of those with low vision or blindness by making built up areas, events and experiences more accessible. If successful, the technology could be implemented throughout Victoria. And it’s a great example of how organisations can work together to make life better for people: the pilot is funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency through a grant and implemented by GDV working with PTV, Metro, City of Melbourne and Southern Cross.

Further pilots are planned for schools, Melbourne Zoo and the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix to really help hone the technology. Watch our Channel 10 feature below to see the beacon in action.

More to come – watch this space.