Using a smartphone and ultra wide band (UWB) transmission technology, Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) and Fujitsu have teamed to create a realtime positioning system for the blind that works indoors where GPS can’t reach. Using base stations to triangulate a user’s position, the system is accurate to within 30 centimeters, or roughly one foot.
The system is pretty simple: using nanosecond-long pulses of UWB, the phone communicates with the base stations, allowing each one to calculate the phone’s distance from it. Those calculations are then further crunched by a central control unit that is able to triangulate the smartphone’s position.
This positioning data is then sent to the phone, where an app displays the position on a map as well as offers realtime audio prompts describing the direction and distance to certain pre-defined targets. The system could help visually impaired people navigate in unfamiliar places, but the makers think it could also serve in other capacities, such as in large warehouses that need to manage sprawling inventories. Such a system could direct people or even automated systems toward certain things and tell them where to take those things next.