If you are a frequent flyer, there is a good chance that you are familiar with all places of at least your hometown airport. However, if you are traveling for the first time, figuring out what to do at the airport and where to find everything that you need can be very cumbersome. That is actually one of the reasons some people miss their flights. To remedy the wayfinding problem, London’s second-busiest Gatwick Airport has installed 2,000 beacons inside its two terminal, making it the world’s first augmented reality enabled airport.
A £2.5 billion transformation framework was approved for the Gatwick airport, and the navigation beacons are a part of the same project. The purpose is to make it easier for passengers to navigate through the airport and reduce the chances of them missing their flights. The system is like an indoor version of maps where the 2,000 navigation points inside the airport let people identify their exact location with the help of an app.
The app uses the smartphone’s camera to identify blue dots to find locations like check-in desks, departure gates, help desks, etc. The airport authorities do not collect any personal information through the app, but it does extract information like people densities at different points inside the airport. This information is then used to monitor the operations throughout the facility. They can measure the queues and take steps to reduce congestion by better streamlining of passengers.
The Airport’s Head of IT Commercial and Innovation, Abhi Chacko highlighted the system’s importance saying, “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.”
While the system has been proven useful, the app is still under development for a wider airport and aviation applications. In future, it could send reminders to late passengers, track their location to see if it is worth it to wait or just offload their luggage so they can take off in time. It can also enable enhancement of the marketing strategies for the airline where they can identify a customer’s location and send them promotional messages or sales offers if they chose to receive them.
In a time of just three weeks, the entire navigation system was installed at the airport which took two months of testing and configuration for low complexity and costs. The mobile technology company PointrLabs is currently managing the 2,000 point navigation system. The CMO PointrLabs, Axel Katalan says, “Our SDK enables battery-optimised, multiplatform and high-performance positioning and other features such as 3D wayfinding through AR and on-screen translation, all of which are now available to be used by Gatwick and their partners as simple as drag & drop.”
Three major airports and many exhibition centers, shopping malls around the world are using the PointrLabs’ technology for accurate indoor navigation.