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Smartphone app tells blind people when the bus is coming


July 17, 2012

With the Busalert software, visually impaired commuters can find out how far the bus is and how long it will take to arrive at the stop

With the Busalert software, visually impaired commuters can find out how far the bus is and how long it will take to arrive at the stop

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Blind people in São Carlos, a city in the state of São Paulo in Brazil, have had their lives made easier when they are out and about their city. The municipality has hooked up with Grupo Criar, a company specialized in traffic systems, to design the Busalert app to make it easier and more efficient to use the city’s bus network.

Similar to Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona's OnTheBus, the Busalert system is unique in Brazil and covers the entire public bus fleet in São Carlos. The passenger sends out a text message and receives a link to the application, which is then installed on their smartphone. At the bus stop, or even before leaving home, the passenger keys in the number of the bus route as well as the stop where they will wait for it from. A recorded voice provides information on the distance, length of wait and how many bus stops the vehicle needs to cover. Once on the bus, they enter the number of the stop where they will alight. The software will feed back information on the distance and time left to reach the destination.

By sending a SMS, users receive a link to download the Busalert software

Around 200 people with visual disability have registered with the city’s council for disabled citizen status. The 40 bus stops covered by the network are now equipped with Braille signs. They were selected based on how much they are used by this group of citizens and are mostly near schools, hospitals and shopping centers. There are plans to extend the network so that any passenger can benefit from the alert system and reduce their waiting time at bus stops.

According to Criar, the software was designed by request of the local administration back in April when Brazil passed a bill to improve access to public transport, especially for the disabled. The company expects to create a new market for its product and has started tests in other Brazilian cities including Ribeirão Preto, Santos and Curitiba. Busalert is based on Java and runs on Android and Windows ME.

Source: Prefeitura de São Carlos

About the Author
Antonio Pasolini Brazilian-Italian Antonio Pasolini graduated in journalism in Brazil before heading out to London for an MA in film and television studies. He fell in love with the city and spent 13 years there as a film reviewer before settling back in Brazil. Antonio's passion for green issues - and the outdoors - eventually got the best of him and since 2007 he's been writing about alternative energy, sustainability and new technology. All articles by Antonio Pasolini
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