Sita and American Airlines embrace new Apple iBeacon technology

Sita and American Airlines embrace new Apple iBeacon technology

By Martin Ferguson in Brussels

New technology at airports will enable American Airlines (AA) passengers to receive real-time updates from the airline on their mobile phones.

Global technology firm Sita has installed 100 Apple iBeacons at terminal four of Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport as part of a pilot programme with a select number of beta customers.

A beacon sends a message to a passenger’s device over a Bluetooth signal when it detects an app, in this case the AA app, within a certain radius.

The technology, which Apple introduced as part of its iOS 7 platform, allows airlines to give passengers relevant information such as directions, walk times to gates, lounge access and boarding alerts.

To use the service passengers have to download the airline’s app and opt-in to the receive notifications.

American Airlines is the first carrier to trial beacons on a large scale, having become the first airline to sign up to use Sita’s new common-use beacon registry.

The announcement was made today at the Sita Airline IT conference near Brussels.

Phil Easter, AA’s director of mobile apps, says investment in beacon technology is all about keeping customers happy.

“It can be a little crazy at DFW,” he said. “65% of my customers are at the gate early because they’re nervous about getting the wrong one.

“So while they’re waiting the beacons can push info to them and help them explore. If you’re travelling with kids there may be information about kids zones and what to do with them.

“The terminal is like a shopping mall and the beacons will allow you to find stuff.”

Initially, the only information pushed to AA customers will be in relation to the flights and the airport passenger experience.

Once the 180-day trial comes to an end Easter says developers would start to think about potential operational benefits using the beacons.

The Sita common-use beacon registry defines standard data sets and beacon types to be positioned at gates, retail areas or checkpoints.

It allows airlines and airports to share beacons to get location information and provide personalised services to passengers.

An API is available for app developers who want to use these beacons for developing travel-related apps.

“Sita’s Registry will enable us to provide the same great user experience to our passengers using our app in airports not just in North America, but across our global route network,” said Easter.

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