Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Fri August 21 2015

JFK Using Technology To Monitor Wait Times

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | August 21, 2015

JFK Using Technology To Monitor Wait Times

PHOTO: Passengers wait in line at New York's JFK Airport. (Courtesy of Thinkstock)

Your cell phone – the do-all, end-all, be-all extension of your life – could soon serve another important purpose: helping you navigate wait times at the airport.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is experimenting with a system called BlipTrack, which uses a series of beacons placed around the airport that look for Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones that are set to “discoverable” mode. Every time you pass by one of the strategically placed beacons, the information is sent back to the system, which gathers data on how many people have passed certain beacons and how fast they are moving throughout the airport.

That data is then compiled to give an estimate – available on 13 monitors stationed only at JFK’s Terminal 4, for now – on how long the passenger wait is to get through security, or customs, or for baggage to come out.

"It continuously updates," Daryl Jameson, vice president at the company JFKIAT, which runs Terminal 4, said in a statement to "People like to know how long they are going to wait in queues. Nobody likes to wait in lines and signage helps to manage expectations."

The beauty of the system is that it also allows terminal employees to monitor wait times and deploy more employees to certain areas as needed.

“We’re probably reaching 19.5 million passengers this year in total. It’s a big operation, which is why we’re introducing innovations to enhance the operations of the building,” Gert-Jan de Graaff, President and CEO of JFKIAT, told “This new system will help us manage and eliminate problem spots within the facility, and sharing the processing time with our travelers will provide them with peace of mind so they may continue to expect a pleasant travel experience. Additionally, data from travelers’ phones could eventually influence future airport design.”

Airports in Cincinnati, Toronto, Dublin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Manchester, Dubai, Auckland, Oslo, Helsinki, Milano, Brussels, and Copenhagen also use the BlipTrack system.

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