SITA Shows The Way For iBeacon Technology at Airports

June 18, 2014
American Airlines will become the first airline to use the SITA Common-use Beacon Registry; passengers can look forward to getting up-to-date and relevant information on their mobile devices in airports everywhere.

June 18, 2014 – Global IT provider SITA is leading the way for airlines and airports using Apple’s iBeacon technology. As part of the world’s largest implementation of beacons at an airport, American Airlines will become the first airline to use the SITA Common-use Beacon Registry, which was launched today. This new service from SITA will mean passengers can look forward to getting up-to-date and relevant information on their mobile devices in airports everywhere.

iBeacon is a technology Apple introduced with iOS 7 that uses Bluetooth Low Energy and geofencing to trigger the display of location-relevant information on devices at the right time and in the right situation. With beacons, airlines can easily provide passengers with indoor directions, walk times to gates, lounge access and alerts about boarding. Knowing where a passenger is before sending information enables more effective communication.

Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA, speaking at the Air Transport IT Summit, said: “As we worked with airlines across the world including American Airlines at DFW and San Francisco International (SFO), and others at London Heathrow Airport (LHR), Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) and Copenhagen Airport (CPH), we saw very quickly that an industry approach was needed.

“We have launched the SITA Common-use Beacon Registry to give the industry a single point of contact for common-use beacons deployed at any airport around the world. With it, airports can control and share the meta data – the exact location including information on gates, terminals, etc. - with airlines and other partners and allow passengers to receive accurate and relevant information.”

SITA systems are used at more than 525 airports globally, ideally positioning the company to work with its airline and airport customers to more effectively roll out this new technology. The pilot program at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is the world’s biggest airport deployment of beacons to date. Over the summer, American Airlines plans to roll the program out to beta users on select routes and airports in North America.

Phil Easter, Director of Mobile Apps at American Airlines, said: “Beacons provide a fantastic opportunity to improve the passenger experience, but to do so they must be consistently deployed at all airports. At American Airlines we are working with SITA to use beacon location detection to enhance our mobile app and give our passengers travelling through the airports accurate way-finding information. Using 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.”

The SITA Common-use Beacon Registry defines standard data sets and beacon types to be positioned at gates, retail areas or checkpoints. This will allow airlines and airports to share beacons to get location information and provide personalized services to passengers. An API is available for app developers who want to use these beacons for developing travel-related apps.

Airlines and airports sharing equipment is a proven and efficient working model. It is already used for kiosks, check-in desks and boarding gates at the world’s airports. The SITA Common-use Beacon Registry will solve the problem of multiple airlines wanting to install separate beacons across airports. It will manage the complexity of the rollout and ensure that airports can manage the radio-emitting devices in such a way that they do not disrupt each other’s signals or existing Wi-Fi® infrastructure.

Peters added: “Any airline or airport that is thinking about iBeacon technology needs to think common-use and check out the Registry.  We’ve built a service to remove the complexity of deployment, and it is already being used successfully in Asia, Europe and America. Beacon owners, such as airlines, airports or ground handlers, can use the registry to manage their beacon infrastructure and track where they are placed. At the same time the API allows app developers to use these beacons to create new travel-related apps.”

Airlines, airports and third-party app developers can access the SITA Common-use Beacon Registry here.

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