Chicago-based real estate investor and operator Waterton has teamed up with Boni Global to implement the first U.S. commercial application of Loud Steps, a Wi-Fi-based indoor navigation iPhone mapping tool for the visually impaired. The mobile app is making its debut at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago – North Shore Conference Center in Skokie, Illinois, a Waterton-owned property.
Developed by Boni Global, Loud Steps provides audio prompts to the blind and visually impaired to help them navigate a building’s interior. Utilizing a cutting-edge Wi-Fi-based location technology solution, the new app’s arrival marks the first hotel installation of its kind in the world.
“We believe this innovative accessibility technology will set a new standard and become a real step forward for the hospitality industry,” said Eric Potter, director of applied innovation at Waterton. “It’s an elegantly simple solution for providing ‘barrier-free’ directions to not only a guest’s room, but also the front desk, bathrooms, food options and exits in case of an emergency. Loud Steps is a shining result of our investment in developing ideas.”
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago – North Shore Conference Center, located at 9599 Skokie Boulevard, is only the second global commercial installation site for the new Wi-Fi version of Loud Steps, following Turkey’s ICF Antalya Airport in August 2017. The Loud Steps app locates the user in the building and provides step-by-step directions using the hotel’s floor plans, including its main floor, conference center and all corridors leading to guest rooms, which have been digitized. Wi-Fi signals from the existing wireless infrastructure provide a cheaper alternative to beacon-based systems, which require a separate physical installation.
“With an estimated 10 million Americans blind or visually impaired, we sense a tremendous opportunity to expand this cost-effective service to the dozens of hotels and apartment buildings we manage nationwide,” said Potter. “Whereas the Americans With Disabilities Act only requires braille signs in public spaces, with Loud Steps we can help our guests feel even more independent by offering a much higher level of accessibility.”
Loud Steps has demonstration sites in 1871 Chicago and the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. First created in Turkey, Loud Steps also has installations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Boni recently won the Smart Urban Pioneers Idea Contest in Frankfurt, Germany, for the innovation and social benefit of Loud Steps.
“Boni Global is grateful to Waterton for their willingness to be the first to launch Loud Steps in the U.S.,” said Paul Colgan, director of business development and corporate strategy at Boni Global. “It demonstrates their commitment to both innovation and the visually challenged community.”