The Finance Ministry and the Bank of Japan plan to offer a free smartphone application that will allow the visually impaired to identify the value of bank notes through sound from November.

The National Printing Bureau will initially develop the app for Apple Inc.'s iPhone, but one for Google Inc.'s Android smartphones is also under consideration, ministry and BOJ officials said.

After taking a photograph of a bank note, the app will inform the holder via sound whether it is a ¥5,000 or a ¥10,000 bill.

In a related move, the ministry, the BOJ and the printing bureau have decided to change the current shape of the round hologram used on ¥5,000 bills to a square design so that the visually impaired can distinguish them from ¥10,000 notes through touch.

At present, the shape of the holograms on both ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 notes is identical, making it difficult for the visually impaired to distinguish between the two. The ¥5,000 bills featuring the new square design are expected to be issued from around summer 2014.