iBeacons, Wayfinding, and Customer Experience: 5 ways BLE technology is changing Travel

Traveling using public or airline transport is often a stressful and confusing experience both for the average consumer and passengers with disabilities. iBeacons are the perfect technology to mediate the stress involved in both navigating transport systems and receiving updates for current departure or arrival times. Several major airline and rail networks are currently implementing iBeacon and wayfinding services to improve both customer service and help travelers find their way to their flight or train. Learn more below about a few of the inspiring projects that have been developed to help both the average consumer and the visually impaired.

Wayfinder and iBeacons help the visually impaired in London’s Underground

Recently, Wired UK reported that The Royal London Society for the Blind’s Youth Forum has initiated a project to help the visually impaired navigate London’s extensive rail network. The initiative combines a new, specially designed app called Wayfindr, which combines iBeacon technology and pathfinding services to guide travelers from their trains and out of the station. Wayfindr transmits location information from a user’s smartphone to bone-conducting earphones. The project is in its early stages, and is currently limited to prototype users who are testing both the app and iBeacons at different locations throughout London. The initiative hopes to help the visually impaired feel more confident traveling within the city while using public transportation. This project provides an exciting opportunity for other rail networks and transport systems to use iBeacons to help improve the overall experience and safety of travelers and commuters.

San Francisco Airport using indoor positioning and iBeacons

The Verge recently reported that San Francisco’s international Airport has launched a similar initiative to the London Underground project. iBeacons installed throughout the airport generate alerts to traveler’s phones with important information or points of interest. For the visually impaired, Apple’s Voiceover technology reads out these alerts as they appear on screen, and the current app provides visual cues for how to navigate to different locations throughout the terminal. For a majority of users, this technology will be utilized to provide both location and retail data, including the location of coffee shops, bookstands, or ATM’s and power outlets within the airport.

Virgin Atlantic uses iBeacons, Google Glass, and smartwatches to improve staff interaction and service for passengers at London Heathrow

In February, Virgin Atlantic launched the first wearable initiative in conjunction with iBeacons at London’s Heathrow international airport. Staff at the Upper Class wing of Terminal 3 are equipped with Google Glass or Sony smartwatches. A smartphone app sends passenger information directly to the Google Glass or smartwatch. This allows for improved check-in processes and up to date flight information. iBeacons are being utilized to communicate gate information and departure times to customer’s smartphones.

Japan Airlines using iBeacons and smartwatches to track staff and send updates to travelers

Japan Airlines is utilizing both iBeacons and smart watches to track staff and improve the customer experience for travelers. iBeacons installed at each boarding gate generate alerts based on the proximity of each staff member. Duties are then assigned by management based on the staff member’s current location within the Terminal. Japan Airlines is seeking to improve response time and customer service goals, while also ensuring improved productivity of staff members.

American Airlines using iBeacons at Dallas airport to improve wayfinding and generate boarding information

In June, American Airlines announced a six-month pilot project utilizing iBeacons to trigger location-relevant information to passenger’s smartphones. The main goal of the project is to improve wayfinding services, including the walking times to gates, and to provide passenger and staff with up to date boarding announcements. Passengers without the current version of the beta app will receive an automatic prompt to download the app when arriving at Dallas’s terminal D.

These projects all provide the opportunity to make the experience of travel both easier and more efficient. Reducing stress and wait times, while providing important travel updates, allows for travelers to spend more time enjoying their journey and less hassle finding their gate or correct departure information. This extra time can be spent at local shops, restaurants, or attractions. When passengers have information sent directly to their smartphones or other devices, airline and rail staff have more time to complete other tasks and provide improved customer service. Another potential benefit is the ability to provide personalized service by informing staff with updated information about a passenger’s food/beverage preferences or special needs. This personalization is an attractive customer service benefit that many retailers and businesses can offer to their customers.