Travelling with iBeacons

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By Artur Bala on August 13th In Proximity marketing
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Have you ever thought what other aspects of life can iBeacons affect? Surely they’re an excellent personal shopping companion, but are there any other activities that may be improved thanks to these tiny transmitters? We did some research and it turned out that that there’s a huge field for development in various sectors of everyday life.

It’s not that obvious at the first glance, but iBeacons may be really helpful when you’re on the go to your well-deserved vacation destination.

Okay, it does sound like a first-world problem, but don’t we all hate airports? Tons of people running from one gate to another, cafés and restaurants flooded with loud tourists from all around the world and useless shops, full of stuff you won’t need. Ever. Noone wants to miss their flight (cause that would mean staying at the airport for another couple of hours, which would be just unbearable), so you find yourself staring at the arrivals/departures screen every 2 seconds. Has my check-in opened yet? Where should I go now?

When you’re finally at the gate, about to board your plane, you nervously start going through your pockets as your boarding pass has just magically become non-existent. Okay, you’re finally boarded the plane and you’re on your way to your vacation destination. Let’s bloody hope they’re not gonna send your luggage the other way…

Yep, we’ve all been there. What does it have to do with iBeacons, you may ask? Well, we would argue that this indoor proximity system can make your airport experience a little less painful.

The technology has already been introduced at the airports a few times. Several airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and Easy Jet were examining whether iBeacons are of any use to them. Course they are.

For now, everyone is keeping it simple – Easy Jet’s Head of Digital, James Millet claims that so far iBeacons mainly inform the passengers that the check-in for their flight has opened or that they should have their IDs ready at the gate. When the user approaches the appropriate zone, he will receive a push notification with the relevant guidance. Surely this is solely an introductory programme and doesn’t seem that helpful at the moment. But the potential for development is immense and you have to start somewhere, right?

Virgin Atlantic took a step further, while introducing iBeacons at Heathrow: while introducing iBeacons at Heathrow: their passengers would find their smartphone automatically launch the boarding pass to be ready for boarding. The device connects with the device automatically as long as the user downloaded the boarding pass to the passbook app. When approaching the relevant zone, such as boarding gate, an iBeacon will automatically launch the app and bring the boarding pass to the foreground. Virgin Atlantic’s iBeacon introduction programme goes beyond the boarding pass feature though. In the main lounge area the user may also receive special offers, such as commission-free currency exchange, personalized duty-free shop offers and more. This opens up a vast range of possibilities for encouraging both new and returning customers to shop. We may track users’ behaviour and shopping habits and link it to their online presence while sitting at home in front of the computer. Thus, the customers can receive personalized, made-to-measure offers. Personalization seems to be the key also for Virgin Atlantic, especially for the premium users. As Virgin Atlantic’s Head of Development for eBusiness James Shanahan claims, “We know who you are, where you are in the airport and on that basis, we also know your customer journey from the Beacons. So if we know when you’re going to arrive and what your favourite cocktail is, we can have that ready in the Upper Class Wing.” The future plans also include sticking an iBeacon to every piece of checked-in baggage, so you can locate it when it approaches you on the baggage reclaim belt. If you don’t wanna wait for Virgin to introduce the feature, and want to try it out on your own, read along!

So, still worried about your luggage as you landed? We’re sure it’s fine, even if it’s somewhere in Alaska and you just landed in Paris. Jokes aside though. If you don’t wanna queue purposelessly next to the baggage reclaim belt, you can use a tracking app, so you know exactly when your bag approaches you. Just throw an iBeacon into your bag and install the app.

However, iBeacons are not exclusive for the planes and airport environment and may be used in different means of transport. Mobile world capital envisions a bus or a train equipped with iBeacons. Thanks to the devices, one would be able to see seats, bicycle rack availability, information about possible connections and time to destination.

So here it is. Travelling just got better thanks to iBeacons. Who would have thought that such small devices can affect our everyday life to such an extent? Surely iBeacons are relatively new to the market and to the travel sector, thus companies are implementing the technology in a rather moderate manner – testing the basic features, users’ activity and so on. However, it seems to be a matter of months that iBeacons become the key facilities when on the go. We’ve even come up with a brief visualisation of how it may look like in the near future, for example at Heathrow terminal 3: heathrow

1. Welcome to Heathrow! Have a safe trip!

2. Your check-in is now open. Please proceed to desks 152-154.

3. Please have your boarding card and passport ready for inspection.

4. Feeling a bit hungry? That restaurant you recommended on facebook a month ago has now a 2-for-1 deal! The offer only lasts for 30 minutes, so be quick!

5. The boarding is now open. Please go to gate number 30.