MIAMI — Travelers flying out of Miami International Airport now have access to beacon technology designed to help improve the passenger experience. The airport has installed 241 beacons designed to help passengers navigate the 7.5 million square foot facility.
Maurice Jenkins is the airport’s division director of information services and oversaw the beacon project. In partnership with air transport IT provider SITA, Miami said it was the first airport in the world to roll out a complete facility open deployment of beacons.
The beacons cover entrances, check-in, gates, baggage claim and valet parking zones throughout the airport. Each beacon broadcasts its identifier in the zone that can be used by airlines, retailers and other partners’ apps to generate useful content for passengers and staff.
The beacons are a part of the airport’s mission to offer excellent customer service, said Jenkins. “We’re also being charged with looking for and enabling passengers to help themselves and bring more value to the marketplace,” he said.
Miami had started looking at different technologies to help passengers, said Jenkins. “I was speaking at a conference in June with my peers from American Airlines and SITA on technology,” he said. “We discussed this and it was very popular. We ended up talking with people after the session.”
That session showed that the airport now had a touchpoint for what it needed to embark on with beacons, said Jenkins. “Plus we already had a partnership with SITA on passenger processing, so it was the right time,” he said. “We also reached out to Amsterdam Schiphol [Airport] on their project, which was also done by SITA, who’s a true player in the industry with a good track record.”
It took more time to plan and design the beacon system than the actual implementation, said Jenkins. “We did a lot of planning and analysis and we looked at all the touchpoints in the airport, including things like entries and exits, ticket counters, gates and restaurants,” he said. “By the time we mapped that out, we rolled out 241 beacons and tested them.”
The beacons were launched in September, and the airport is still looking at the possibilities for them, said Jenkins. “The limitations are as far reaching as your mindset can take you,” he said. He used the example of an unaccompanied minor.
“You want to make sure your child got to the gate. If you had an app on your smartphone, you can use the beacons to see when your child gets to the ticket counter, goes through security and reaches the gate,” said Jenkins. Other functions Jenkins mentioned include monitoring airport temperatures and offering passenger loyalty programs.
“What we’ve done is reached out to developers and airlines to see if they want us to write applications for the beacons,” said Jenkins. “We’re even thinking about doing a hackathon to create applications for the beacons We now have the technology, so now let’s see what we can build around it.”