For travelers racing to catch a plane, it’s essential to quickly and accurately determine how to get to their gate. Unfortunately, GPS doesn’t cut it indoors. This is why many airports are turning to Bluetooth iBeacons. Beyond helping travellers get to their gate with indoor mapping, beacons help provide valuable data and allow last-minute deals.

With more and more airports jumping onboard, airports are a beacon vertical that is moving out of the trial stage and into commercial implementations. Here’s how they are using beacons:

Indoor mapping

We can’t emphasize enough how important accurate indoor mapping is for someone trying to catch a flight. At Hamad International Airport (HIA), in Doha, Qatar, you can scan your boarding pass and get real-time info on the flight status, baggage claim and directions to the gate. They have over 700 Bluetooth iBeacons helping to guide the way. These beacons allow apps to help pinpoint users.

Schipol airport is also relying on beacons for indoor mapping. They have placed 2,000 beacons around the airport. More than 16,000 people use the app daily. When users enter their gate, they can find the quickest route and follow it right on their smartphone. Schipol originally tested WiFi positioning systems but these were not as successful.

Last-minute deals

Indoor mapping is clearly beneficial to almost everyone at an airport. Many travellers are also looking for last-minute deals for food, gifts, souvenirs, etc. Beacons were particularly helpful for sending messages at the Hong Kong International Airport. With beacons, dining, shopping offers and promotions can be sent. This use case won the Gold Award in the Best Location-based Marketing Category at the Mob-Ex Awards 2016.

Outside of sending messages about food and dining, SITA has been pushing in-flight WiFi with beacons outside of gates. SITA also has a very interesting project with beacons called the SITA Common Use Beacon Registry. Their goal is to reduce the complexity of beacon projects and help airports deploy and manage beacons.

Finally, with the Lufthansa mobile app, travellers will receive location-based offers and services. Beacons were installed around a terminal in Munich in a trial phase. App users who were near their Business Lounge received an offer to enter for €25. The messages were only sent if the lounge had spare occupancy so as not to upset those who had bought a premium ticket.

Data collection

Miami Airport’s 500 beacons were actually used for data before they launched their app. They are now also using them for both sending messages and helping customers find their location. Beacon data can help airports determine where travellers congregate and how they move through the airport. We expect other airports who have data beacons to start using them for indoor mapping and sending out deals soon as well.

Conclusion

Airports are great spaces for sizable beacon implementations. Indoor mapping with estimated walk times makes life a lot easier for their travelers. Getting great deals on shopping, dining and services is an added benefit beacons can offer. However, airports should not abuse these messages. The last thing a frantic traveller wants is an irrelevant deal. Using beacons for occasionally triggering marketing messages helps micro-target travellers based on their location and how long they have been in a certain area. One of the most important things for airports is also to collect data to improve traveller experience.