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JFK Airport taps beacons to display wait times

New York?s John F. Kennedy International Airport is 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.

JKF International Air Terminal LLC has made Terminal 4 the first terminal at JFK and in the region of New York to provide real-time processing times for travelers waiting in queues at security and customs. The beacon technology leverages Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals to track mobile devices as consumers move through the line, accumulating data to present the most accurate time to exit, a feature that resonates positively with many time-strapped passengers.

?We?re managing expectations and providing passengers with useful information,? said Daryl Jameson, vice president at JFKIAT, New York. ?It gives a better understanding of what to expect when you?re on the queue and what to expect from the process.

?We also use [the technology] to provide correct resource assignments in terms of staffing, and minimize the amount of wait time as much as possible.?

Stress-free traveling
The beacon deployment is designed to alleviate stress from the consumer, employee and stakeholder standpoints. In addition to using the technology to enable correct resource assignment among staff, Terminal 4 can also leverage it to analyze any issues that have arisen in the past.

The information can easily be relayed back to stakeholders, such as Transportation Security Administration, or TSA.

Travelers at traffic-heavy locations such as customs and security will now be able to receive the projected time from entrance to exit in their area by glancing at their smartphones.

Consumers who do not have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities enabled on their devices may instead look at the display monitors placed at the TSA security checkpoint, indoor taxi queue and Customs and Border Protection.

This functionality will offer relevant and timely information to tens of thousands of travelers each day, some of whom have connecting flights with little time to spare. The monitors at the taxi stand will also help consumers deduce how much time it will take for them to reach their final destinations in New York.

?[Response has] been mostly positive,? Mr. Jameson said. ?The public and our stakeholders have thanked us for giving them the opportunity to understand what the wait times are.

?We?ve not only deployed it in the immigration area, also at the TSA checkpoint and by the taxi area. Terminal 4 is the only airport in the country that has deployed this technology in such a large scale.?

Eliminating problems
Beacons? ability to collect valuable customer data will support JFK Airport in ensuring it fixes any queue problems and prevents other issues from arising in the future. The technology can also map passengers? movements to pinpoint congested areas, at which airport employees can send staff in to reduce wait times and manage traffic.

While some consumers may initially be wary about privacy, the beacons that detect the presence of mobile devices will not grab data to identify the smartphones? owners or their numbers.

JFK Airport is not the only travel hub tapping this technology to streamline the traveling process.

Orlando International Airport is also joining the trickle of airports integrating with beacon technology to offer travelers directions to important locations such as ticket counters, baggage claim and gates by teaming up with Aruba Networks to leverage its ?blue dot? GPS navigation and wireless network (see story).

Additionally, many airports are realizing the potential of using beacons to send consumers targeted push notifications containing deals and promotions for nearby restaurants and stores in the terminals. JFK?s Terminal 4 is currently conducting more research on rolling out this tactic.

 ?We are looking into how we can best utilize [beacons for commerce] and redeploy areas to target particular airlines and demographics and send them messages about things they would want to buy and see,? Mr. Jameson said.

?We do see that as something we will be looking at in the next three to five years.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York