Gatwick Airport deploys augmented reality tech
Around 2,000 beacons have been installed across Gatwick Airport’s two terminals, providing an indoor navigation system that enables augmented reality wayfinding for passengers. Part of a £2.5 billion investment programme, this is pitched as a world first for an airport.
The lack of satellite signals makes road-based navigation systems – such as Google or Apple maps – unreliable indoors, so Gatwick has deployed the system to enable reliable ‘blue dot’ on indoor maps, managed by PointrLabs, which in time can be used within a range of mobile airport, airline or third party apps. This also enables an augmented reality wayfinding tool - so passengers can be shown directions in the camera view of their mobile device - making it easier for them to locate check in areas, departure gates, baggage belts etc.
The tech is currently being integrated into some of the Gatwick apps and it is also in discussion with airlines to enable the indoor positioning and wayfinding tools to feature on their app services. No personal data will be collected by Gatwick 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 - and with the consent of their passengers - may send reminders on their airline app to late running passengers, or find out where they are and make a decision on whether to wait or offload their luggage so the aircraft can take off on time.
Retailers and other third parties may also use the beacon system to detect proximity and send relevant offers or promotional messages. Gatwick says that battery powered beacons kept logistical complexity and costs low, with deployment taking three weeks, followed by two months of testing and calibration.
“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,” says Abhi Chacko, Head of IT Commercial & Innovation, Gatwick Airport. “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.”