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wednesday :: june 11, 2003
tormes: satellite navigation for blind people

ONCE, the Organization of Spanish Blind people, has just developed a system based on GPS to guide blind people. The system called 'Tormes', named after a famous Spanish 16th century story, is a computer with a Braille keyboard and satellite navigation technology that gives verbal directions.

The accuracy given by GPS is not precise enough and not guaranteed. A new tool, developed by ESA could be the breakthrough: EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service). EGNOS corrects the GPS signals and gives an accuracy of 2 m while GPS provides an accuracy of only 15 to 20 m. It also warns the users of any problem with the signal thus giving integrity information. EGNOS is transmitted to the ground via geostationary satellites, so sometimes signals are blocked by buildings. To solve this problem, engineers had the idea of getting the data through the Internet via a GSM connection, a project called SISNeT (Signal In Space through Internet). This makes EGNOS available anywhere downtown. Blind people who are able to access this information could distinguish streets.

Tormes, the hand held device, speaks to the user, like any GPS device in a car, but weighting less than one kilo it can be carried over the shoulder. It can be used in two ways: to guide the user to their destination or to tell them where they are as they walk around.

Ruben Dominguez, a blind mathematician who has tried out the device says 'This completes what exists for assisting blind people: the dog or the white cane, but furthermore it will really improve the life of the blind community by giving a lot more autonomy when moving around town, specially in unknown places.'

When EGNOS is operational in spring 2004, blind people can expect unprecedented assistance giving them more autonomy. EGNOS paves the way for Galileo, the first civil global satellite navigation system. >from *More autonomy for blind people thanks to satellite navigation*. June 4, 2003

related context
Galileo becomes a reality for Europe. "Galileo will complement the existing satellite navigation system, which presently relies entirely on GPS, the American Global Positioning System. Galileo is designed to provide a complete civil system. Scheduled to be operational by 2008". may 26, 2003
> satellite navigation system.

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