Bluetooth Beacons Are Now Helping People Navigate Gatwick Airport

By Ian Morris on at

Beacons are nothing new, but Gatwick Airport is throwing itself into using the technology in quite a major way, installing 2000 battery-powered devices to help provide location data. Beacons are useful when GPS can't work - indoors, mainly - and allow the airport to provide a variety of services via apps.

Because the beacons are battery-powered it's only taken the airport a few weeks to install the devices. Users will be able to use an airport app to see where they are and get information about the shops around them. It's also possible, if the user agrees, for Gatwick to send them information if they are close to missing their flight, based on where they are and where their gate is.

The potential to use AR to help find your way around spaces as confusing as an airport is, obviously, quite a good one. Gatwick says that it doesn't use the information to track individual users, although it says it does get some basic data about people flow.

The airport is using technology from a company called Pointr to deploy the system. The company's site say that beacons are "very difficult to spot", measuring just 5cm by 3cm by 2cm. Batteries in the devices should last for over two years and the devices are placed at intervals of about 10-20 metres, although they can be detected from as many as 70m away.

Obviously some will have privacy concerns. From the Pointr website it appears that there are a couple of different products on offer. One which uses the app to send basic data back to the airport. There are other beacons that detect phones in a more active fashion, and can be used for tracking. [TechCrunch]