I've written previously about a number of fascinating innovations in the airport sector, whether it's robotic baggage handlers, AI security systems, driverless transportation, runways capable of de-icing themselves or facial recognition scanners. The latest innovation comes by way of Gatwick Airport in the UK, who have installed augmented reality beacons throughout the airport to help people find their way around.
The system, which is the first for an airport in the world, aims to fill in the gap caused by the lack of coverage that renders traditional mapping services useless inside terminals. The airport has installed a few thousand beacons to provide that coverage, whether in augmented reality or other third party apps.
It's currently being integrated into many of the official Gatwick apps, whilst they are also hoping to work with a number of the airlines operating from the airport to integrate it into their own apps. In addition to providing passengers with a useful service, the team also hope to gather anonymized data on people densities to help improve airport operations, whether it's in reducing congestion or managing queues.
An affordable solution
By using battery powered beacons, the airport kept the logistics as simple as possible, which also helped to keep costs to a minimum. What's more, the system was simple enough to be deployed in just three weeks, albeit after a few 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," Gatwick say.
“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.”
Finding the way
Of course, augmented reality is not the only way airports are using technology to help passengers find their way around. Last year the Japanese tech giant Hitachi tested out a robot wayfinder in Tokyo's Haneda airport to help lost travelers navigate the airport.
The robot engages travelers in conversation and is capable of providing them with visual information via its display panel.
The initial trial will consist of three phases, with the first seeing the robot located at a counter and replicating the role of a customer service person.
The second phase will see it take on a limited range of motions and engage in a wider range of conversations with travelers, before then progressing to the third phase where it will be looking to accompany travelers to their desired location. It’s hoped that this final stage will be entered into in December.
“Japan has seen a recent increase in the number of foreign visitors, an increase which has raised the need for a variety of services to enable them to make the most of their visit,” Sato said.
Whether it's robots or augmented reality, hopefully we will be getting plenty of help finding our way around the airport in future.