London Underground trials Wayfindr digital navigation system

7 December 2015  •  Author(s): Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, Eurotransport

London Underground has begun trials of Wayfindr, the audio-based digital navigation system, to guide vision impaired people through and around Euston Tube station.

London Underground trials Wayfindr digital navigation system

Wayfindr has been developed by the Royal London Society for Blind People’s (RLSB’s) youth forum and digital product studio ustwo. It is the first open standard for audio-based navigation that uses beacon technology to guide vision impaired people through urban environments.

Wayfindr beacon's installed at Euston Tube station

Wayfindr beacon’s installed at Euston Tube station

The trial guides participants through Euston Tube station, giving audio directions from a prototype smartphone app that interacts with beacons installed throughout the station. London Underground commissioned the trial to find out if the system can work reliably across the Tube network and to test and refine Wayfindr’s standards for audio navigation. Early this year, a pilot project was implemented at Pimlico Tube station; its success led London Underground to invest in a full-scale trial of the system at one of London’s busiest Tube stations.

System gives audio directions via a prototype Wayfindr smartphone app

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP said: “We’re always striving to find new and innovative ways to help give more people the confidence to travel on our transport network. The Wayfindr project is a great example of our wider work to improve accessibility in London, which includes hundreds of millions of pounds invested into step-free stations and new trains designed to be accessible to all. I look forward to the results of this hugely exciting trial, which is making use of the latest smartphone technology to help vision impaired people get around our city more easily.”

David Waboso, London Underground’s Capital Programmes Director, added: “We’ve been supporting Wayfindr from its infancy, and are delighted to see it taking off. Our trial at Euston is really putting the system through its paces, to see whether it can fulfil its promise at one of London’s busiest Tube stations. Ultimately this innovative project is about giving our vision-impaired customers the flexibility to travel with the same independence and spontaneity as everyone else. We’re excited to see what this technology can do to make London an even more open and accessible city.”

London Underground trials Wayfindr digital navigation system

The RLSB Wayfindr project was awarded a $1m grant by as part of the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities program, which invites applications from projects that seek to solve problems for people living with disabilities, through technology. The grant will accelerate the work of Wayfindr over the next three years. Wayfindr will build on its experience in London to set the standard to make cities worldwide more accessible to the vision impaired.

The Wayfindr Standard will launch in early 2016, setting the first guidelines for audio navigation for vision impaired people. The standard, developed through rigorous user research in live environments, will give location owners and makers of digital navigation services the tools to empower vision impaired people to independently navigate urban settings with the phone in their pocket.

Dr Tom Pey, Chief Executive of RLSB and Chair of Wayfindr, said: “Smartphones have revolutionised the lives of blind people, giving us a level of independence that 20 years ago we couldn’t have imagined. What makes Wayfindr so strong is the focus on smartphones, meaning blind people don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on different gadgets – they have everything they need in their pockets. I am excited for our young people to be at the forefront of making London the most accessible city in the world, through the Wayfindr Standard.”

One response to “London Underground trials Wayfindr digital navigation system”

  1. Mark Smith says:

    A “trial” which is overhyped! The TfL API feed does not contain station operational information, as an App developer I am fully aware of this.

    Might work on a perfect day, but what happens when the lift breaks – how will the App know? It won’t.

    TfL needs to sort out the data it provides in its API – then let the whole of the app community have a go. Where is the competition.

    Frustrated App Developer

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