JFK airport monitoring passengers' phones to provide wait times

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One of JFK's new BlipTrack screens(Credit: Blip Systems)

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Next time you’re in Terminal 4 of New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, you may notice curiously specific estimated wait times being displayed at some of the line-ups. That’s because JFK is trying out a new system that uses passengers’ mobile phones to get a sense of how long people are taking to go through queues.

The BlipTrack system was developed by Denmark’s Blip Systems, and was installed by Lockheed Martin. It’s currently in use at TSA Security checkpoints, Customs and Border Protection checkpoints, and the indoor taxi waiting area.

It utilizes beacon modules that detect the Wi-fi or Bluetooth signal of passing mobile devices which are in "discoverable" mode. When a device is discovered, the system records, encrypts and time-stamps its MAC address – this is an ID that’s unique to that mobile device. None of the user’s personal data is accessed or recorded.

When that same phone or tablet is re-identified by other beacons farther down the same queue, the system analyzes how long it took to get from one beacon to the other. It then extrapolates how fast it will take someone to get through the line, and displays that information on a nearby screen.

"With this data, JFK is able to display accurate wait times to reduce passenger frustration and to notify staffing if areas in the terminal are becoming congested, so staff can identify and rectify bottlenecks before they escalate," Blip states.

BlipTrack has also recently been introduced in a number of other airports, and was utilized last year to track Christmas shoppers in Denmark.

Source: Blip Systems

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