Be My Eyes turn to Twilio to maintain rapid connectivity as user numbers grow

David Murphy

A person using the Be My Eyes appBe My Eyes, whose app connects sighted volunteers with blind and low-vision users over video chat, has selected cloud communications platform Twilio to power the app, to overcome lags in connection time as the app scaled to 178,000 users in under five years since launch.

Across the globe, an estimated 253m people have a visual impairment that affects their daily activities and can make them reliant on friends and family. Be My Eyes wants to bring visual assistance to blind and low-vision people everywhere through the power of communication. In just a few seconds, a user can connect with a volunteer or a representative from one of the companies listed on the Be My Eyes platform.

By pointing their phone’s camera toward an object, the user can enable the volunteer to describe or assess the situation and provide assistance. The goal is to provide the independence that users want by helping with everyday tasks and pivotal life moments, from reading information on a packet of food to the results of a pregnancy test.

Be My Eyes launched its app for iPhone and Android devices in 2015. Visually impaired people are able to use a smartphone via accessibility features that provide a synthetic speech and touch-based interface on iPhones and Android devices. The user requests help via the app and is connected to a volunteer or a partner company representative that speaks the same language within one minute, with 90 per cent of connections being made within 30 seconds.

Specialized Help, a customer support platform within Be My Eyes, connects users to a partner company rather than a volunteer, enabling them to contact an official company representative to provide assistance regarding their products or services.

The app was an immediate success, quickly racking up 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 visually impaired users. As the Be My Eyes user base grew in the following years, however, this scale threatened to create lags in connection time, creating a significant problem for users.

Be My Eyes had initially sourced video connectivity from multiple providers, but determined that Twilio Programmable Video offered faster connections with higher quality and greater stability. Since migrating to Twilio, Be My Eyes has reduced connection times by more than 50 per cent.

“Relying on friends and family for everyday tasks can be taxing on relationships and prevent people with visual impairments from achieving true independence,” said Be My Eyes chief commercial officer, Alexander Hauerslev Jensen. “Be My Eyes is a Twilio-powered community support platform that solves a visually impaired person’s problem in a fraction of the time that it would take via audio. When you’re asking for help, a little bit of time can feel like an eternity. Every second we can shave off wait times means more trust, more engagement, and a stronger bond in our community. A 50 per cent reduction in connection time can mean a world of difference for the user and the Twilio platform enables us to achieve this.”

Be My Eyes now connects 178,000 blind and low-vision people with more than 3m sighted volunteers to companies such as Microsoft, Google, Lloyds Banking Group, P&G and others for visual assistance through a live video call. Be My Eyes is available globally, spanning 150 countries and 185 languages, all with free and unlimited 24-hour access.