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San Diego airport's multifunctional beacon app streamlines flying

San Diego International Airport is preparing to roll out a mobile application that guides travelers from the beginning to the end of their journeys with the help of in-airport beacon technology, streamlining access to relevant information such as taxi wait times and gate changes.

A growing number of airports are realizing the value of deploying beacons to their infrastructure, particularly when it comes to minimizing hassle and stress for time-strapped travelers. San Diego International Airport is planning to leverage Spark Compass?s platform and Gimbal?s technology to introduce a customer-facing app that uses beacons to offer multiple utilities to consumers, such as directions to the airport and real-time flight information.

?Everything would suggest that airports are a perfect environment for beacons and indoor location,? said Patrick Connolly, principal analyst at ABI Research. ?In 2016, there has been a step increase in the activity in the airport market around BLE beacons.

?We have recently seen deployments in Hong Kong, Rio, Hyderabad, Hamad, Frankfurt, Bologna and Milan airports,? he said. ?There are already a number of deployments cropping up in U.S. airports, such as Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Jose.

?In terms of improving overall performance, I believe major airports will have to move to indoor location technologies over the next five years, it is just a case of when.?

Holistic travel experiences
According to a post on ABI Research?s blog, San Diego International Airport?s forthcoming Away You Go app is set to offer individuals a slew of capabilities to make their travel journeys less stressful. The California-based airport has installed beacon devices in security areas using Spark Compass?s platform, which controls location detection, analytics and CMS.

Consumers can start using Away You Go prior to their arrival at the airport by asking the app to display time and directions to the travel hub. Once they arrive on-site, users will be able to receive gate and flight information, real-time updates and taxi wait times.

This enables travelers to skip browsing their preferred airline?s site for possible itinerary or gate changes, a feature that could become especially useful for those on the verge of missing their flight.

Spark Compass has also developed BLE beacon-enabled ?Go Tags,? which the airport can distribute to passengers wanting a luggage alert or verification system. Once travelers arrive at their final destination, the app will inform them when their bags are ready for pickup.

Spark Compass?s platform is multi-tenant, meaning it can integrate with airline companies? and airport retailers? own apps, infrastructure and services.

Its solution stands out from other platforms due to the multifunctional aspects it offers.

?Utility is absolutely essential to any app that utilizes beacons, whether that be an airport or a retailer,? Mr. Connolly said. ?If passengers don?t think, ?I need my app to get on that plane,? the app will largely fail.

?Most [airport] deployments have focused on solving one problem for passengers, e.g. check-in or gate navigation, or have been deployed by an airline rather than the airport, which significantly limits the usability,? he said. ?What is great about the deployment at San Diego International Airport is that it has built in a huge range of customer utility, while also opening up the platform to third-party apps from airlines, etc.

?When implemented correctly, indoor location can have a huge impact on improving the passenger experience, which is more than enough to drive usage; would many people consider driving abroad without some form of turn-by-turn navigation today??

Building on previous iterations
San Diego is not the only airport that has rolled out beacon-enabled mobile apps in the last year.

Last summer, New York?s John F. Kennedy International Airport began employing beacon technology in its Terminal 4 with the goal of removing some of the hassle in flying by displaying actual wait times at major queues for travelers (see story).

Additionally, Orlando International Airport is leveraging Aruba Networks? beacon technology to offer travelers directions to important locations such as ticket counters, baggage claim and gates (see story).

However, the multiple utility features embedded within San Diego?s app will likely serve as the model for other airports to emulate.

?Another important factor will be making passengers aware of the app; they are not conditioned yet to check for an airport app on arrival,? Mr. Connolly said. ?American Airlines is one of the first entities to deploy Google?s new Nearby capabilities, which will make it far easier to drive awareness and usage of the app.

?From San Diego?s point of view, it is driving its own value from the platform for internal applications that improve overall efficiency, even before a passenger has downloaded the app.?