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Gatwick Airport uses augmented reality for wayfinding

26/05/17

System uses Bluetooth beacons as basis for indoor maps and app development to help travellers find their way around

Gatwick Airport has adopted a new indoor navigation system for travellers based on augmented reality and using around 2,0000 beacons installed in both airport terminals.

Indoor navigation app on smartphoneThe move follows  an earlier initiative with beacon technology at Heathrow and could provide a lead for helping people to find their way around different types of public spaces.

The beacons are part of a positioning system said to be more reliable indoors than those based on satellite signals. They emit a low energy Bluetooth signal and help to create a ‘blue dot’ navigation path on indoor maps under a service managed by indoor navigation specialist PointrLabs.

It is said to be accurate to within three metres and able to recognise dynamic features such as indoor construction.

The technology is currently being integrated into some of the Gatwick apps and the airport is in discussion with airlines for it be used their app services. There is a software development kit available for app developers.

Data usage

Gatwick said that no personal data will be collected, although generic information on ‘people densities’ in different beacon zones may help to improve airport operations, including queue measurement, streamlining passenger flows and reducing congestion.

Airlines could go further - with the consent of their passengers – by sending reminders on their apps to those running late.

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

The deployment is part of Gatwick’s £2.5 billion transformation programme and took three weeks followed by two months of testing and calibration.

Abhi Chacko, head of IT commercial and innovation for 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.” 

Image from Gatwick Airport

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