Technology shapes us and betters us, but sometimes it can also belittle our best intentions.  The Talking-Points project is a new idea that hopes to use embedded Bluetooth tags placed strategically throughout a city to communicate with the blind to guide and provide geographic landmarks and local business information.

Here’s the blup from the Talking-Points website:

Talking Points is a GROCS
funded collaborative project whose aim is develop a prototype urban
orientation and contextual information system. By using a mobile
computer to read Bluetooth tags positioned around a city, such as Ann
Arbor, user generated location information is presented to the user via
either an audio or visual modular interface. Information about each
location on which the tag placed is stored in an online database. This
information is retrieved by the cellular data connected mobile device
when the user comes within close proximity to a “Talking Point.” The
information for each Talking Point is maintained by the Talking Points
community; anyone can add, modify, or delete information for each
Talking Point.

The idea of a “Bluetooth City Guide for the Blind” is worthwhile, but there are concerns that the “Talking-Points” will be packed with advertising instead of the purity of information.

Will the Bluetooth network be secure?  Or will anyone be allowed to create their own “Talking-Points” site?  Will there be a quality mandate for the information broadcast via Bluetooth or will anything and everything be permitted?

Will there be deep integration with local municipalities to include “Talking-Points” for city services like bus schedules, traffic lights and other daily drudgeries like guiding one through the courthouse maze or even the county lockup? 

There also needs to be a way for the individual user to filter the Bluetooth “Talking-Points” for intention, privacy, flavor or securely signed authenticity. 

Too much information can be overwhelming, and allowing the listener to pick and choose the guides they seek is the paramount principle that “Talking-Points” must honor, admire and promise


  1. Let’s just hope that people will be able to parse out the rubbish from the useful information because otherwise this will be pretty overwelming and ultimately useless.

  2. You’re right, Gordon, that this idea could quickly dissolve into meaningless commerce. I’m sure the person would have to actively pair their Bluetooth equipment with the network, so there will need to be some sort of content gatekeeper to make sure the information is right and accurate and worthwhile. That’s why I think the network should be owned and operated by a municipality and not private enterprise.

  3. David,
    What a great application of bluetooth technology! It’ll be fascinating to see how people take to it.
    Maybe they could also use it to flag available parking spaces and then point drivers to them?

  4. It’s definitely an interesting idea, Dananjay, but I also fear it is an idea that will too easily make advertisers drool. I like your idea about open parking spaces! That would be a great help to able bodied people and would exponentially expand the user base.

  5. Hi David,
    Sounds like a great equipment!
    But the advancement of technology always tend to welcome some unwelcome intrusion, which is tough to filter. I hope this serve the target audience though!

  6. The target audience was everyone at first, Katha, then they changed it to be primarily a service for the Blind. Interesting changes in intention and thought-processing, eh?

  7. Really!
    Making it “looking for user-friendly and useful and social responsibility” etc.?

  8. Katha —
    I think their thinking was “How can we make this immediately useful?” Catering a Bluetooth informational tour for average people is a non-starter — but instead pandering to the Blind is a quick way to get recognition and, perhaps, federal development money under the idea of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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