Augmented reality app will allow airlines to track late passengers

Gatwick airport has installed around 2,000 beacons to enable ‘augmented reality wayfinding’ for passengers in a world first for an airport.

A lack of satellite signals can make road-based GPS systems, such as Google or Apple Maps, unreliable indoors. Gatwick has deployed a beacon-based positioning system that enables more reliable indoor navigation.

The beacon system also enables an augmented reality wayfinding tool, showing passengers directions in the camera view of their mobile device to make it easier to locate check-in areas, departure gates and baggage belts.

The new navigation technology is currently being integrated into some of the Gatwick apps. The airport is also in discussion with airlines to enable the indoor positioning and wayfinding tools to feature on their app services.

Gatwick won’t collect personal data, although generic information on ‘people densities’ in different beacon zones may help to improve airport operations by measuring queues, streamlining passenger flows and reducing congestion.

Airlines, on the other hand, may ask for passengers’ consent to send reminders if they’re running late and use their location to make a more informed decision on whether to wait for them or offload their luggage so the aircraft can take off.

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Retailers and other third parties may also use the beacon system to detect proximity and send relevant offers or promotional messages, if the passenger has chosen to receive them.

Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport, serving more than 228 destinations in 74 countries for 44 million passengers a year.

The new technology is part of Gatwick’s £2.5 billion investment programme to transform the airport. The deployment took three weeks, followed by two months of testing and calibration.

Abhi Chacko, head of IT commercial and innovation at Gatwick Airport, said: “By providing the infrastructure, we’re opening the door for a wide range of tech savvy airport providers, including our airlines and retailers, to launch new real-time services that can help passengers find their way around the airport, avoid missing flights or receive timely offers that might save them money.”

“We are proud to be the first airport to deploy augmented reality technology and we hope that our adoption of this facility influences other airports and transport providers so that it eventually becomes the norm.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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