How can airports handle their thousands of daily visitors? Here's how those airports are adding Bluetooth beacons to their airport technology.
Airports are very much like alternate dimensions. The moment you enter, everything is a bit different. It can be very confusing. Passengers have to maneuver the many halls, stores, and even internal transit systems—all without missing their flight. Even for seasoned fliers, managing all of this can be more than a little bit stressful. In order to make airport experiences better, airports around the globe are turning to Bluetooth beacons to address a variety of different problems.
For years, airport operators have tried to make visitor experiences a little better. Stores, WiFi, lounges, even statues and performances can all turn the stressful wait for a flight into a positive experience. Of course, the system is still far from perfect. Airport technology, however, is catching up. With the rise of mobile, airport operators realized the chance to connect better with their passengers. For this reason, we can expect to see a steady increase in mobile-directed solutions in these spaces. With Bluetooth beacons, these solutions have the proximity information they need to deliver better experiences.
In airports, Bluetooth can work in two keys ways. First, they power the popular stand-alone Bluetooth beacon solution, where they are stationed at a store or gate. These can help mobile apps know exactly where the user is located. Second, they can create a grid system. By leveraging a whole infrastructure, these mobile apps can deliver turn-by-turn directions and understand how the user is moving through the entire space. It’s worth noting that none of this data is stored by the beacon. All the beacon can do is delivery that proximity information.
Some airports are unbelievably confusing. Passengers running for a connection may need to take a bus to another terminal. So where’s the bus located? Where is this terminal? When you’re under a time constraint, finding your next gate is a serious matter. For those who have more time to wander, navigation can still be a headache when there are many twists and turns and hallways.
There are three important places beacons can help passengers find: gates, help desks, and luggage carousels. Whether you’re on time or running late, turn-by-turn navigation can get you to your gate easily. No more frantically scanning huge lists or having to ask five people for help. Similarly, locating and going to any kind of help desk is greatly simplified. And once you deplane and are on your way out the door, the last thing you want is to have trouble finding your luggage. That’s why a smart airport app with beacons can direct you straight to the luggage carousel.
Making a regular experience great
If you’re going to be stuck in an airport, might as well make the most of it. Finding the perfect place to eat or your favorite store to look through can help make for a much better visitor experience. Airport technology can support this by giving passengers easy directions to all their favorite locations.
Airlines, airport shops, and local news may have information they need to get to visitors. The most obvious, and crucial, example relates to your flight. Is there a delay or gate change? This is crucial information passengers want as soon as possible. Beacons and smart airport apps can help deliver this information to passengers quickly. If the gate is closing and a passenger isn’t in the area, a message can help push them quickly in the right direction.
Once you touch down and are ready to go out in the city, what’s your plans? Here, local and geographically relevant information can be very helpful. Transit times, weather, and important news can all be delivered to visitors the moment they step outside. Waiting for a bus in a new city can be stressful. Airport technology can easily take some of this pressure off by using proximity data to deliver information visitors need when they approach the bus stand or subway exit. Should the forecast be rain and apocalyptic storms, visitors should know this before stepping out of the airport.
Most of your time in the airport isn’t spent at the gate or at the bus stop. It’s spent walking around aimlessly. Here’s where proximity can again come into play. What if you could see only the best deals of every store as your walk past? If you’re on the lookout for a coupon, this could mean a half-priced coffee or a deal on the gifts you meant to buy for your friends and family back home. In this scenario, it’s important that airport operators and managers understand that their visitors don’t want to be bombarded with marketing messages. Instead, it should be up to those visitors how much they receive and how it happens.
While passengers may think airport technology only benefits them through navigation and messages, it can actually have much more complicated and long-term benefits too. By tracking general movements of passengers through the airport, operators can clearly understand what their infrastructure needs. If there’s too few bathrooms in one area or too many cafes in another but no chairs in another, this will show up in the data. Analyzing that data can lead to better layouts that provide better experiences to visitors. That means shorter wait times, more options, charging stations where you need them, and more.
Queue management in general is very important in airports. Understanding the flow of passengers from check-in to security and so on can be difficult. In the end, this really hurts passengers, who end up waiting in line, being late, or just generally stressed about the entire mess. Again, proximity-powered heatmapping or data generation can much more clearly show the flow of passengers, where bottlenecks occur, and where management should make changes.
Similarly, this can also lead to a more accurate understanding of wait times. Now, when you’re planning for take off, you can clearly see whether your wait time will be 30 minutes or 3 hours.
It was only recently that 2,000 Kontakt.io beacons were deployed in London Gatwick. And there's plenty more to come.
In fact, BI Reports predicts nearly 91% of global airports to have navigation included in their mobile apps in 2018. As the shift to mobile continues, airport operators are realizing the importance of delivering information right to the customer's phone. With new deployments happening every week, it won't be long before passengers get to experience different beacon use cases in every airport they visit.