App operates pedestrian crossing
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Smartphone app operates pedestrian crossing

A former guide dog mobility instructor develops an app to operate pedestrian crossings without having to press the button.

The Edinburgh company who invented the app say it has other uses and could be used to alert customer services if people need assistance in banks, supermarkets and airports.

Neatebox was first invented to help visually impaired people cross the road and the developer says it could have a far wider use.

BBC Scotland's Ian Hamilton reports.


Reporter: Pressing a button to cross the road is not hard, unless you cannot reach nor see to find it.

Mike Harrison: One of the difficulties I have with pedestrian crossing is sometimes getting close to the pole. Very often they are very much to the side and difficult to reach. There is one that I use occasionally where you've got to go into the bushes at the side before you can reach the button. Being able to come up to the crossing without having to get close to the pole would be an advantage for me.

Gavin Neate speaking to Mike Harrison: So when you approach the crossing, with this in your pocket working independently, it will press the button for you.

Reporter: A company in Edinburgh, called Neatebox, has developed a way of activating crossings via a smart device. The invention was developed by a former guide dog instructor who realised how difficult it was for disabled people to press the button.

Gavin Neate, CEO Neatebox, : It's really very simple. The person approaches the pedestrian crossing. The mobile phone, which is running the application, is in their pocket; it recognises the crossing and presses the button for them. The person then just waits for the audible signal and crosses the road. We install hardware into every single pole, every single box at the crossing, that sends out a signal - the mobile phone communicates with that, totally independent of the person and it's all happening in the background.

Reporter: For someone who is totally blind like me and can see absolutely nothing, a big open space like this one can be very confusing particularly when you're trying to find the reception. It's hoped that the same technology could alert staff if a disabled person needs help.

Receptionist: Hi Ian, I'm Tracy and welcome to Gogarburn.

Reporter: Hi, pleased to meet you. If I just take your elbow.

Receptionist: That's fine.

Gavin Neate: We install our beacons at the entrance to these buildings. As soon as the person gets close to the building, their phone interacts with that and their phone interacts with the reception or the customer service team. So it's very simple, they know the person has arrived.

Reporter: This is the first personalised pedestrian crossing in the world and it's here in Edinburgh. The challenge, now, for Gavin and his Neatebox is to persuade local authorities and businesses to install his invention. Ian Hamilton, Reporting Scotland, Edinburgh.

  • 27 Jun 2016