Innovation That Matters

Airport sensor system tracks mobile phones to provide accurate wait times

Work & Lifestyle

At JFK airport, the BlipTrack Indoor Sensor system uses beacons and passengers' phones to determine very accurate waiting times.

Choosing the right queue in a bustling environment such as an airport currently requires a combination of tactical thinking and pure luck. Unless that queue is in JFK’s Terminal 4, where Blip System’s BlipTrack has recently been installed. The system uses beacon modules and passengers’ phones to determine accurate waiting times, which are then displayed on nearby screens.


BlipTrack is currently being used at 13 spots around the airport, including TSA security checkpoints, Customs and Border protection and at the taxi rank. The system works using sensors, which monitor the movement of passengers’ mobile phone through the airport: any wifi or bluetooth devices in ‘discoverable’ mode can be tracked. Each device is automatically given a unique ID and encrypted and time-stamped when it passes an initial beacon. Then, when the same device is recognized at later beacons, the system records how long that journey has taken. The collective data then creates very accurate, estimated wait times. This information can then be used to aide staff dispersal, as well as to inform and reassure passengers.


The BlipTrack Indoor sensor system has also been installed in a number of other airports — from Toronto to Aukland and at Dover passenger port in the UK. A similar system is already used by Google Maps to predict travel time based on traffic. Where else could this technology be used?



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