Gatwick has installed around 2,000 beacons across its two terminals to give passengers an indoor navigation system claimed to be more reliable than GPS.
The system also enables augmented reality wayfinding for travellers – a world first for an airport.
The lack of satellite signals makes road-based navigation systems – such as Google or Apple maps – unreliable indoors.
Instead, the airport has deployed a beacon based positioning system to enable reliable ‘blue dot’ on indoor maps, which in time can 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 them to locate check in areas, departure gates and baggage belts
The new navigation technology is currently integrated into some of the Gatwick apps. The airport is also in discussion with airlines to enable the indoor positioning and wayfinding tools to also feature on their app services.
No personal data will be collected, 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, according to the airport.
Airlines could go further and, with the consent of travellers, may send reminders on apps 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.
Battery powered beacons kept logistical complexity and costs low, with deployment taking just three weeks, followed by two months of testing and calibration.
The new technology is part of a £2.5 billion investment to transform the airport.
Airport head of IT commercial and innovation, Abhi Chacko, said: “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.
“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.”