Birmingham Airport uses IoT to monitor queues and keep passengers happy
Birmingham Airport uses IoT data, improves queues, keeps passengers happy

Birmingham Airport uses IoT to monitor queues and keep passengers happy

The UK’s Birmingham Airport has implemented a solution to accurately measure queues and predict waiting times, following its busiest year to date.

The airport saw more than 11 million passengers arrive from and depart to destinations across the globe in 2016, leading the management team to explore technology options to ease growing congestion problems at border control.

Following a review of various systems, the airport team tapped up software specialists at Gentrack to deploy a sensor-agnostic tracking and monitoring system called BlipTrack from Danish queue management experts, Blip Systems.

Queue management makes a big difference…and not just for the British

BlipTrack is a queue measurement system, used to help airports comply with service-level agreements, such as wait times.

The system works by deploying a mixture of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connected sensors to detect mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Once detected, these devices provide information such as travel times, dwell times and passenger movement patterns.

According to Chris Wilson, head of terminal operations at Birmingham, “The solution is used at the north immigration hall to measure and predict the wait time at the UK Border. The data really helps to understand the actual wait time for the border, and helps discussion with the UKBF (United Kingdom Border Force) planning team and resourcing plans for the future.

“By sharing the information on screens, we help reduce passenger frustration by creating realistic wait time expectations. It makes the passengers feel more relaxed and helps them to better plan the final elements of their journey as well as onward travel,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the project had been a great success, particularly for data analysis and reporting. He confirmed that in future the airport plans to continue the project to incorporate other areas, such as southbound security and immigration.

Read more: IoT in aviation? Rolls Royce says it’s about to get messy [with data]

A small change with big benefits

Like Birmingham, numerous airports are now deploying IoT technologies to improve the passenger experience.

In particular, many are displaying wait times to passengers using IoT data and the reasons behind this are straightforward.

According to Blip Systems, “By ensuring that passengers experience a quick and easy passage through airport processes, management are able to increase concession dwell time, encouraging passengers to use retail facilities.

“Studies reveal that every minute of delay costs up to €1.00 per passenger”, it reads – a view corroborated by Jan Willem Kluivers, digital program manager at Air France KLM, speaking as the opening keynote at our Internet of Aviation event at Heathrow, London, last year.

Kluivers is a big believer that if airlines and airport operators can make the whole passenger process – from arriving at the airport to going sky-bound in the plane – much more seamless, there would be benefits all-round.

A “well-prepared customer will do other things, and spend on other things. It’s a revenue opportunity,” Kluivers said.

More than 25 international airports are now using Blip Systems’ technology, including Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and JFK Airport in New York.

Read more: 10 stellar real-life examples of IoT taking flight in aviation

Transforming the airport ‘production line’

Chief executive of insurtech software provider Concirrus, Andy Yeoman, told Internet of Business that IoT will transform the ‘production line’ in airports, for both passengers and their luggage.

Similar to the project in Birmingham, Concirrus has helped to deploy an IoT system at Heathrow Airport, UK, focusing on the monitoring and flow of baggage.

“When we first met our customer at Heathrow, they told us that the baggage systems are mission critical infrastructure that cannot fail ‘at any cost’. It turns that when they say ‘any cost’ what they actually mean is the lowest possible cost. This is the paradox that is faced everyday, but the good news is that IoT can fix this,” Yeoman said.

“If you think of an airport as a ‘production line’ that a passenger (and their baggage) experiences when they pass through it, by monitoring each component of the ‘line’ in detail, we’re able to spot issues before they become problems and make maintenance and operational decisions that give the maximum up-time together the minimum costs.”

For full details on this IoT project check out the Internet of Business webinar below.