BEP releases ‘app’ for identifying notes

Apple mobile devices will detect denominations
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Published : 04/26/11
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A free mobile phone and tablet application developed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to assist blind and visually impaired users to denominate Federal Reserve notes is now available.

On April 20 the EyeNote application was made available for iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4G models as well as the iPod Touch fourth generation and iPad2 tablet computer platforms. The application is available free through the iTunes App Store.

The EyeNote app was developed by the BEP and supports English and Spanish languages. It was designed to be a One Touch app to “maximize use by a user with no vision,” according to the BEP news release.

The EyeNote uses image recognition technology to determine a note’s denomination as the user points the device’s camera at the note.

According to the BEP news release, “The mobile device’s camera requires 51 percent of a note’s scanned image, face or back, to process. In a matter of seconds, EyeNote can provide an audible or vibrating response, and can denominate all FRNs issued ($1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100) since 1996. Free downloads will be available whenever new U.S. currency designs are introduced.”

In the Spoken mode the app “speaks the denomination of the note and identifies if the face or back of the note was scanned.”

In Privacy mode the app “will not speak the denomination, but will communicate results back to the user with a pulse pattern — on iPhones the Privacy mode uses the vibration buzzer for the pulses and in the iPod Touch and iPad2 it will convey the denomination in audible beeps for the pulses.”

The EyeNote app does not require an Internet connection, allowing the user to identify notes at any location.

The application does not authenticate a note as being either genuine or counterfeit.

The app is not intended to replace other accommodations the BEP might make to help the blind and visually impaired to identify note denominations, as required in a 2008 court ruling, officials say. According to the government, the app enables owners of the various Apple mobile devices to identify notes without having to carry a separate currency reader.

The application is only available for Apple devices, although it may be made available for additional products by other companies later. “Future phone offerings cannot be definitely specified at this time, but there are tentative thoughts to make EyeNote available on other phones from other vendors once the iOS [Apple’s iPhone, iPod and iPad operating system] effort is launched,” according to the EyeNote FAQ section.

According to the BEP news release, “Research indicates that more than 100,000 blind and visually impaired individuals could currently own an Apple iPhone.”

The BEP applied for a U.S. federal trademark registration on June 29, 2010.

For more information about the application visit the website www.eyenote.gov or request details by emailing the BEP at eyenote@bep.gov.

New technology

Earlier in 2011 a private company developed an application that audibly identifies all FRN denominations (see April 4 issue of Coin World).

The LookTel Money Reader can be purchased for $1.99 at Apple’s App Store for the iPhone and iPod.

The LookTel Money Reader is currently available for iPhone 4 and 3GS models as well as the iPod Touch fourth generation. Developers expect to make the application available to Android and other platforms soon.

The LookTel Money Reader application also uses the camera in the phone to identify denominations and does not require an Internet connection.

The app was developed by Ipplex in Santa Monica, Calif. The company has also developed iVisit, a mobile conferencing technology, and LinkMe Mobile, an image and voice recognition technology for mobile phones.

Future FRN accommodations

The EyeNote app is the first of a variety of measures the government is working to deploy to assist the visually impaired community to denominate currency, as proposed in a recent Federal Register notice.

BEP and other United States Treasury officials are still considering various public comments received in 2010 about proposed accommodations for the blind and visually impaired to be added to the next round of redesigned FRNs.

The accommodations would fulfill a requirement of a court decision in a lawsuit filed in 2002.

The BEP proposed the addition of raised tactile features and large, high-contrast numerals to FRNs, along with a currency reader loan program to help blind and visually impaired persons determine the denomination of notes.

Large, high-contrast numerals were first added to Series 1996 $50 FRNs to help improve identification of notes for persons with impaired vision.

That technology has continued to be used on subsequent redesigns of other denominations, including the yet-to-be-released Series 2009 $100 FRNs.

The size, color, placement, background contrast and other aspects of the larger numerals are all factors that will have to be considered in any future redesign.

Recommendations are expected to be are made to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner about mid-2011. The Treasury secretary has authority to determine the design of U.S. currency. If the recommended changes are approved, testing and development of specific currency designs by denomination would follow.

In May 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision in 2006 that the Treasury failed to design, produce and issue paper money that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals.

The lawsuit alleged that the physical design of the FRNs violates Section 504 of the federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act.

Various devices

The BEP has tested various tactile devices and hand-held currency readers in its goal to comply with the court order.

Use of a raised tactile feature would be something new for U.S. paper money. No device of this style has ever been used on U.S. paper currency, although tactile features are common on notes of other nations.

A variety of options were studied during extensive testing in 2009. World notes in addition to prototypes specially produced by the BEP were used in the study.

If handheld electronic devices are used to comply with the court order, a currency reader distribution program would loan a currency reader device to all blind and visually impaired U.S. citizens and legal residents.

The readers would be offered at no cost to eligible blind and visually impaired people to help them independently identify their cash. ■

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