JFK tracks mobile phones to ease passenger queues
New York City’s JFK Airport is trying a new and different method of cutting down on wait times – crowd-sourcing passenger mobile signals.
The city and region’s busiest commercial airport is historically not known for its ease of use, so is taking steps to make the queuing a little bit less stressful for passengers.
In recent months, JFK’s Terminal Four has installed technology by Denmark-based Blip Systems to track passenger movements around various congested hotspots.
But rather than other methods, such as London City Airport which uses cameras to place a “pixel” on the head of people as they move around the facility, Blip’s technology uses a passenger’s mobile phone signal.
Sensors dotted around the terminal at strategic points detect Bluetooth and wifi-enabled devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, to collect data such as movement, dwell periods and flow between different points.
“When a device passes the sensors, its non-personal unique ID – called a MAC address – is recorded, encrypted and time-stamped. By re-identifying the device from multiple sensors, the travel times, dwell times and movement patterns become available.”
The technology triggers a notification of congestion in places such as border protection points, immigration, taxi queues and baggage areas, so officials can open more lanes or direct passengers elsewhere.
But it also flashes up wait times on screens around the airport, so passengers can perhaps alter their plans whilst moving around the terminal and also keep them up to speed on potential issues they may face with queues.
Blip claims similar technology at Cincinnati Airport has seen queue times fall by a third since it was installed in the summer of 2014.
Other airports hoping to see similar results include Dubai, Manchester and Barcelona.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.