Indoor navigation system to help the blind



FOR many, getting into a building and heading towards the place that they want to go might be done with ease but that is not the case for the blind.

In an attempt to guide the blind when they are in a building, the St Nicholas Home has come up with a mobile application, called ‘ViNV’.

ViNV is a Bluetooth beacon-based navigation system that will provide both audio and visual guidance to the users as they enter a beacon-equipped building.

The Penang Island City Council (MBPP), which is sensitive towards the different needs of the community, is in support of this initiative.

MBPP mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang stated that the local government gives much emphasis on the needs and the importance of universal design in making an inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable city.

“All local governments (PBT) and Malaysian Authorities of Local Authorities (MALA) are committed to ensure that people with disabilities receive equal rights and opportunities in all aspects of life.

“We prioritise the provision of better and more user-friendly facilties in line with the government’s intention to make our place of living to our friends with special needs.

“MBPP is working closely with the St Nicholas Home to develop an indoor navigation application for people with visual impairment which is the first of its kind in Malaysia,” said Yew in his speech at the ‘Universal Design : From Principle To Practice In Built Environment’ seminar held at the Gurney Hotel today.

Later on, the mayor and MALA representatives joined the demo conducted by the St Nicholas Home at Gurney Plaza to check on the ViNV application.

The ground floor of Gurney Plaza is equipped with the ‘beacon’ where it can detect the location and send it to the phone.

St Nicholas Home executive director Daniel Soon hoped that ViNV would make the blind more independent.

“We know that travelling is a challenging task for the visually impaired. In the recent years, the state government and the local councils have made the external environment very accessible to the blind, like the blind friendly traffic crossing.

“Now, we are focusing on the internal environment accessibility. So in 2015, we started to develop the indoor navigation application.

“We decided to run the application on the smart phone because it is an essential tool for the blind and they are very good at it.

“The application will help them to go where they want to go and this will make them to be more independent which is what they desire.

“We hope that the state government and the local council will implement this in all the public buildings in the state. Hopefully, other states will also emulate this,” said Soon

Yew said if the ViNV becomes a success, they would convey it to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government so that it could be launched nationwide.

“We would like to thank Capital Mall for allowing us to use Gurney Plaza as the ‘pioneer project’ to use the application.

“Today we have begun with Gurney Plaza and hopefully this can be expanded to elsewhere such as government offices and other shopping complexes.

“Through MALA, we will also share this technology with all the local councils,” Yew said.