The lack of satellite signals makes road-based navigation systems – such as Google or Apple maps – unreliable indoors. Gatwick says its beacon based positioning system enables reliable ‘blue dot’ on indoor maps, and in time could be used within a range of mobile airport, airline or third party apps.
The beacon system also enables an augmented reality wayfinding tool - so passengers can be shown directions in the camera view of their mobile device - making it easier for passengers to locate check in areas, departure gates, baggage belts etc.
The navigation technology is currently being integrated into some of the Gatwick apps and the airport is also in discussions with airlines to enable the indoor positioning and wayfinding tools to also feature on their app services.
Abhi Chacko, head of IT Commercial & Innovation, Gatwick Airport, said: “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.
No personal data will be collected by Gatwick although generic information on ‘people densities’ in different beacon zones may help to improve airport operations including queue measurement, streamlining passenger flows and reducing congestion.
Airlines could go further and - with the consent of their passengers - may send reminders on their airline app to late running passengers, for example, or find out where they are and make an informed decision on whether to wait or offload their luggage so the aircraft can take off on time.
Retailers and other third parties may also use the beacon system to detect proximity and send relevant offers or promotional messages, if the passenger has chosen to receive them.
The new technology is part of Gatwick’s £2.5 billion investment programme to transform the airport.
Chacko added: “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.”