London Gatwick Airport has begun integrating an augmented reality (AR) wayfinding tool with its airport app following the installation of approximately 2,000 beacons throughout its North and South terminals. Once deployed, Gatwick claims that the technology will be a world’s first for an airport.
The beacon positioning system enables passengers to pinpoint their location on a digital map of the airport, which can then be used to locate nearby concessions, amenities or the relevant departure gate. The AR tool will work as an add-on, which can be used to direct passengers to their selected location by showing digital arrows in the camera view of their mobile device.
Gatwick is currently in discussion with partner airlines and other common-use airport apps about sharing the functionality of the wayfinding system. No personal data will be collected by Gatwick although generic information on ‘people densities’ in different beacon zones may be used help to improve airport operations including queues, passenger flows and congestion.
Airlines could go one step further, and with the consent of their customers, send reminders on their airline app to late running passengers. Retailers and other third parties could also use the beacon system to detect proximity and send relevant offers or promotional messages.
The new technology is part of Gatwick’s £2.5bn (US$3.2bn) investment program to transform the airport and took just three weeks to deploy, followed by two months of testing.
Abhi Chacko, head of IT commercial and innovation, 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.”