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Gatwick Airport’s 2,000 Beacons Power AR Indoor Navigation

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

Gatwick’s beacon-based positioning system directs passengers around the airport via the camera on their mobile device

Not to be undone by London City Airport, which is set to become the UK’s first airport to install a digital air traffic control tower, Gatwick Airport is making some technological advancements of its own.

The airport has installed 2,000 beacons across its two terminals, providing an indoor navigation system that enables passengers to find their way around through augmented reality.

The system, a world first for an airport, is believed to be much more reliable than GPS-based services such as Google or Apple maps as it doesn’t rely on satellite signals which are often unreliable indoors.

gatwick airport

AR wayfinding

Much like the hugely popular app Pokemon Go, Gatwick’s beacon-based positioning system directs passengers around the airport via the camera on their mobile device, making it easier to locate check-in areas and departure gates.

No personal data will be collected, although Gatwick will keep track of generic information on  “people densities” in certain beacon zones, which it hopes will help to improve airport operations at busy times.

In the future, the system could also be integrated into retailer, airline and other third-party apps to provide services for offers and promotional messages.

“By providing the infrastructure we’re opening the door for a wide range of tech savvy airport providers, including our airlines and retailers, to launch new real-time services that can help passengers find their way around the airport, avoid missing flights or receive timely offers that might save them money,” said Abhi Chacko, head of IT commercial & innovation at Gatwick Airport.

“We are proud to be the first airport to deploy augmented reality technology and we hope that our adoption of this facility influences other airports and transport providers so that it eventually becomes the norm.”

The technology is part of Gatwick’s £2.5 billion investment programme to transform the airport, which currently serves 44 million passengers a year.

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