Since Apple introduced iBeacons, brands, apps and developers have thought of amazing possibilities that proximity + contextualization enable us to have – from doors that automatically open to city guides that tell about your surroundings. Since then, beacons have allowed us to think of an array of meaningful and extraordinary applications that couldn’t be created with preceding technologies like GPS or NFC.
When beacons come to mind, one of the hottest and most controversial topics is “indoor positioning” – which is something the technology wasn’t originally designed to provide, but that can be achieved somehow, depending on how complex the solution is. Some people embrace the precisely metric approach, while others think of beacons from the contextual point of view. No matter what the doctrine is, beacons are one of the most powerful and exciting things that we ever had since GPS came to our phones.
From Weareables to Nearables
Since the concept of wereables was introduced, a whole new category of products, ideas and solutions boomed around it: glasses, wrist bands, watches, tennis shoes and the list goes on. Recently, Estimote Inc, one of the most well known manufacturers of proximity and beacons solutions, have introduced a total new concept of how we interact with things and spaces: the nearables.
Nearables are small stickers/tags that enable us to create meaningful context for physical objects around us. From a nearable point of view, we don’t need all of our objects to necessarily be connected or “smart”, but the simple fact that their presence (or absence) can now create meaningful context to surrounding applications is a -big- deal breaker.
What if iBeacons could improve the visually impaired?
So far, most of the applications created around the proximity sticker market focused on: 1) finding things when we can’t see them, and 2) reminders when we get close to things. In both cases, without questioning how useful these applications are, they were created for the those with perfect vision and a reasonably good memory.
Couldn’t nearables offer an unprecedented increase of quality of life and eventual increase of happiness for those who can’t see? We’re not necessarily talking about indoor navigation per se (most of the visually impaired people have a more accurate sense of space, smell and hearing than most of us reading text on a display). When most of us forget where the keys are, proximity applications can save us a few minutes. When someone is visually impaired, proximity technologies can offer them comfort and a better quality of life.
The Beecon app focuses on automation for your home or office – it allows you to control appliances or tweet when you arrive somewhere, but it also has simpler features, such as alerts that can be shown when you’re close to things or when you arrive at places.
Inspired by the brave new nearables world and with the less privileged ones in mind, we’ve decided to transform a simple feature into something useful and meaningful. Beecon now offers Spoken Alerts that enable you to listen to custom audible messages when you get close to objects or when you enter places. Spoken Alerts also can be used by anyone without visual disabilities. You can literally keep your phone in your pocket and get audible notifications about what Beecon is doing without having to open or look at the app.
If you know someone or if you have a visually impaired friend or member of your family, we would be happy to know how/what they could do with this new feature. It is only a beginning and a humble step towards applications that may help those who are special, but we’re excited to see what the nearables revolution will bring to the special ones in the very near future.