A Positioning and Mapping Methodology Using Bluetooth and Smartphone Technologies to Support Situation Awareness and Wayfinding for the Visually Impaired

Principal Investigator

Chen-Fu Liao, Senior Systems Engineer, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering

Project Summary

Many environmental cues, though not always reliable, are available to support the decision making of the visually impaired on various levels of wayfinding and situation awareness. People with vision impairment are less confident in traveling alone in an unfamiliar environment largely due to uncertainty and insufficient information in such an environment. To improve their mobility, accessibility, and level of confidence in using the transportation system, it is important to remove not only the physical barriers but also the information barriers that could potentially impede their mobility. In the past, many personal assistive systems have been developed to provide information to the visually impaired. This assistive information is good if the visually impaired can trust that the information provided is valid and robust. What is needed is a "self-aware" infrastructure, i.e., a system that can self-monitor and make sure that the information is up-to-date. This research has developed a standalone Bluetooth Low Energy smart system (called BLE master) prototype integrating commercial off-the-shelf BLE beacons. The system can detect when any of its beacons are not functioning—because of a loss of power or vandalism, for example. A statistical methodology has also been developed to monitor infrastructure and make sure information is up-to-date.


  • Roadway Safety Institute (USDOT)
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation

Project Details

  • Start date: 07/2014
  • Project Status: Active
  • Research Area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: None