Good Thinking

JFK airport monitoring passengers' phones to provide wait times

JFK airport monitoring passeng...
One of JFK's new BlipTrack screens
One of JFK's new BlipTrack screens
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BlipTrack utilizes beacon modules that detect the Wi-fi or Bluetooth signal of passing mobile devices which are in "discoverable" mode
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BlipTrack utilizes beacon modules that detect the Wi-fi or Bluetooth signal of passing mobile devices which are in "discoverable" mode
One of JFK's new BlipTrack screens
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One of JFK's new BlipTrack screens

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

3 comments
Timelord
18 minutes? Good luck with that. I've usually run into the rudest, most incompetent, least helpful Customs and Border Patrol agents when returning at JFK. They make Stanley Tucci's character in The Terminal look like a guardian angel.
christopher
LOL "None of the user’s personal data is accessed or recorded." - this is an airport - if they were not recording this, they would be criminally negligent at their job. Imagine the uproar if an attack happened, but they'd used BLE MAC's for wait queues, and not bothered to use SS7 etc to ID you, grab your texts, data, and calls - which all essentially use the exact same bit of $200 hardware to do? Especially as hackers are doing this all over the world (as exposed in Sydney) already - how stupid would customs look if they *weren't* doing it?!? So no - that's not true; they are recording your phone data in much greater detail; those guys are really *not* that incompetent at this stuff - the stakes are way too high.
Bob Flint
So what happens if your phone is turned off, or don't carry a phone with you? As if that ever happens, most people don't since they are all addicted to being in the know, while being spied on.