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RFID based Indoor Navigation for vision impaired


NSF IGERT trainees Amber Bratcher, Matt Dube, and Fred Schwaner of the University of Maine developed an indoor navigation system adaptable for blind or vision impaired users based on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sensing. Dr. Nick Giudice who is a blind faculty member provided input on desired functionality for the system. Passive RFID tags which have no battery and require an external source to generate a signal transmission, were deployed within a building. The research required determining the electrical properties of the indoor space, developing a position location method using radio waves from known positions (RFID tag locations), and the generation of user orientation based on the former. The students tested various RFID tag configurations and the reliability of the method for position and orientation determination. The system has a visual interface in addition to providing audio location and navigation information to a user, not unlike commercially available vehicle navigation counterparts. The device has immediate practical applications in emergency response (e.g. assisting fire fighters in smoked filled building) and in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance issues.

Address Goals

The project contributes to the important education objective of developing a well trained diverse and multidisciplinary workforce. The students were from 3 different backgrounds (Math, Biology and Electrical Engineering) and were required to combine their various skills to address a research problem and develop a viable solution that addresses an important social need.