SITA's Stephane Cheikh shows their new tracking program

Remember the scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise’s character is on the run? He walks into a shopping concourse trying to blend in to the crowd, but he can’t avoid the eye scanners. As he gets scanned, each advertisement he walks past instantly calls out his name, selling whatever product directly to him.

It’s here.

SITA, an aviation communications and technology company, is launching a new program in Copenhagen International Airport that will soon deliver location based advertising to your iPhone while inside the airport, using your device’s own Wi-Fi to track you.

SITA recently demonstrated the tracking system to the New York Times, showing realtime passenger movements from their offices in Geneva, nearly 1400 km (680 miles) away from Copenhagen International. Different coloured dots served to differentiate arriving passengers from those who were departing. The system is accurate to within 10 feet, given the placement of SITA’s Wi-Fi receivers. It does not detect any information about the person, only their location.

According to Stephane Cheikh, innovation manager for SITA, approximately 20 percent of air travelers have with them a device that emits Wi-Fi signals, and the percentage is only going up as more people get smartphones. The tracking information will be used to help airport officials manage traffic flow, and see where passengers congregate, and where there are bottlenecks. In addition to tracking behind the scenes, travellers can also download an iPhone app which will convey location specific information to the user such as which security line has the shortest wait time, or special deals or discounts at retailers that are close by.

It’s a retailer’s dream, and it offers a definite financial incentive to airports to install the system, which is quite expensive. Boosting sales and easing travellers’ passage through the airport sounds like a win-win, right?

From the NYT article, Airports Council International data indicated that 2.5 billion people passed through airports in 2009. In North America they spent on average $7.65 before departing, but with more data on these passengers’ location and behaviour patterns, the spending could increase from $5 to $10. That’s a significant increase in revenue.

SITA reports that it has seen 100,000 downloads of its Copenhagen Airport iPhone app so far, even before the program is officially launched. Seeing as you can’t even find the app on the iTunes App Store, this program could prove to be very interesting. We’ll see how it turns out, and whether you’ll be seeing a similar program at an airport near you sooner rather than later.

Article Via Gizmodo
Photo Credit: Nicolas Righetti for the New York Times

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