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
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
For more information about the application visit the website www.eyenote.gov or
request details by emailing the BEP at email@example.com.
Earlier in 2011 a private company developed an application that
audibly identifies all FRN denominations (see April 4 issue of
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The readers would be offered at no cost to eligible blind and
visually impaired people to help them independently identify their