KLM announced an enhancement to its Android and iOS applications which provide users assistance in wayfinding around its hub at the busy Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). The Dutch airline is one of the early adapters of the beacon technology. This post will discuss what beacon technology is and how airlines and airports can enhance passenger experience with it.
This mobile application upgrade combines free airport WiFi and iBeacon technology deployed around the airport to create a more streamlined experiences for passengers connecting or department from the Dutch airport.
The following is a diagram illustrating the 6 easy steps to start the navigation process:
KLM also included a video on Youtube to guide passengers on this new process:
Not only will the KLM application guide the passenger on where to go. It will also provide information such as the time required to go the gate and the location of lounges and service desks.
Introduced by Apple Inc. on its mobile platform iOS 7, beacon technology enable location awareness capabilities. Mobile applications can leverage Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and a device with the technology, to establish a region around an object. This allows other devices to determine when it has entered or left the region, along with an estimation of proximity to a beacon . There are both hardware and software components to consider when using Beacon technology.
Google introduced its own beacon technology with a competing platform named Eddystone in June 2015. It is open source and allows for cross platform access (i.e. iOS applications would be able to use this (refer to this link for more information).
KLM is the first airline in the world to utilize the iBeacon technology from Apple Inc. to transmit information to passengers as a guide to wayfind around an airport. This can enhance the passenger experience and make the trip more enjoyable. It also provides KLM with a competitive advantage at AMS over other airlines and is a great marketing tool.
While the current Android and iOS technology only provides notifications on wearables (example, Apple Watch), KLM is testing how to integrate beacon technology into this new type of devices to enhance the passenger experience further (refer to news update).
KLM is not the only airline using this innovation. Here is a list of other airline and airport operators deployed beacon technology as a new enhancement or in trials.
Miami International Airport (MIA) is the first US airport to utilize beacon technology. The airport installed beacons at all entrances, including check-in counters, gates, baggage claim carrousels and parking zones to provide passengers with more updates on flight and wayfinding information.
Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE) is using SITA’s beacons and Common Use Beacon Registry to provide this real-time information to passengers. With beacons installed throughout the terminal, passengers using the app will also receive retail information and offers relevant to their specific location.
New York JFK International Airport (JFK) is using beacon technology to show passengers time to indicate wait time for security and custom border protection areas. (News – January 2016).
American Airlines (AA) is deploying beacon technology at its hub in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) for evaluation. Full deployment at the airport and the airline have not been announced.
Easyjet (U2) installed the technology at London Luton Airport (LTN), London Gatwick Airport (LGW) and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) since late 2014 and has been collecting usage data from 10 million+ people with iOS applications downloaded.
“We’ve placed beacons at our bag drop desks and security areas notifying customers on exact documents they should have ready and allowing access to their boarding pass in a single ‘swipe’,” says James Millett, head of digital at EasyJet. “These trigger helpful notifications to passengers’ mobiles during critical points of the airport journey.”
In the future Millet says that beacon technology could be highly effective when used to support individual airport way finding challenges. “For example, sensing that customers need to be in a different location if they are carrying skis,” he says.
United Airlines (UA) updated its mobile application in August 2015 which contains information on beta testing it is conducing on iBeacon technology in its major hub at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Tarek Abdel-Halim, United Airlines’ Managing Director of eCommerce & Passenger Systems will participate in the ‘Beacons and Wearable Technology Symposium’ at Future Travel Experience Global 2015 to discuss what UA’s strategy in this space.
Opportunities On Using Beacon Technology
There are many business opportunities available for the beacon technology. There are five specifically that would be very useful for airlines and airports:
1. Wayfinding – passengers with connected mobile devices will gain GPS capabilities which will make finding direction easier.
2. Real time information updates – airlines and airports can send updated information (for example, delays / gate changes) in real time to passengers.
3. Enhanced passenger experience – airlines can work with airports to offer shop/restaurant discounts or awards based on interests noted in the passenger’s airline profile. This can extends into sending relevant media to passengers.
4. Traffic management – beacon technology can gather passenger flow data that enables airlines and airports to re-direct travellers to ease congestions.
5. Data gathering – airlines and airport operators can collect information to determine the types of service / amenities that are more popular. This can help them manage future capital improvement projects.
When data is being collected, there is inherent concerns over privacy, security and confidentiality. It is important for airlines and airports to set a framework on how information is collected, stored and used over time. Additionally, data should be classified based on sensitivity and should be treated differently (for example, sensitive data like names or nationality should be stored in a highly secured location which is not easily accessible).
Beacon technology is in its initial stages of development and deployment. As more airlines and airports are involved in testing, expect there would be more third party support with the goal to improve passenger experience. We are available to further consultation.