Proximity at the Airport: A Use Case

When it comes to implementing proximity solutions, retailers are currently leading the way with pilot programs launching worldwide. Whole Foods is implementing a rewards programs in the Philadelphia metro area. Target is in the beginning stages of testing their proximity pilot. But what about areas where time is critical and coupons aren’t as relevant as they are in retail environments, where the timing of offerings can make the difference between a good day and a bad day?

Flying, for many passengers, can be a trying and stressful experience. And for some it seems the more they fly the more stressful it becomes. Airports, for the most part, are sterile places, a poor combination of doctor’s office waiting rooms and shopping mall food courts with all the enjoyment of a dental chair. But when it comes to internet connectivity they are pretty well-connected. Wi-fi availability is pervasive and in most areas LTE and 4G coverage is solid. So taking it a step beyond wi-fi, where does proximity fit in? Using NFC/QR, bluetooth beacons, and even wide area geofencing, a use case for the traveler emerges. Using United Airlines at Newark as an example, let’s follow a particular traveler as he or she arrives, checks in, passes through security, arrives at the gate, and, finally, boards the aircraft.

Airline ‘Pilots’: Testing Proximity

Truth be told, some airlines have already begun the pilot process of rolling out proximity-enabled tests. Virigin Airlines experimented with Google Glass last year. Kevin McQuillan, head of and mobile, when speaking late last year to TheDrum, explained their approach to passenger engagement while keeping in mind the perils of unwanted push notifications. “The airline industry has an incredible opportunity [with proximity marketing], unlike maybe some other industries. We have a relationship [with consumers] right from that consideration point through to purchase and beyond and thinking about how we can use mobile and digital through that stage is critical.”

Well, said. So what are some of the ways in which an airline might improve the passenger interaction without making a potentially intrusive experience less irritating?

Airport Arrival: Check Your Bags More Efficiently

At the curb, United maintains skycap baggage handling. With a bluetooth beacon employed, the United mobile application (upon receiving the beacon transmission) might alert the user to the skycap’s availability. If the passenger accepts the skycap request and has already checked in, the system would be aware of the number of pieces of luggage declared and the luggage tags would be instantly printed. The passenger drops off the bags and proceeds to security. If the passenger doesn’t currently have the United mobile application, a placard with an NFC tag and QR code offers a simple tap/scan to load it.

The Frequent Flyer: An Exclusive Interaction

For a frequent flyer participating in the MileagePlus rewards program, a beacon at security might alert the traveler to the first class/elite status line, or the TSA pre-approval line, depending on the member’s status.

Once security is cleared, the traveler might have another 2 hours before the flight’s departure time. As the passenger strolls by the beacon located at the lounge, a push notification is sent; “Hello, Passenger! You have 2 hours before your flight. Try the United Club on us!” The message is timely, targeted, and relevant. The passenger has 2 hours before the flight, he’s standing in front of the lounge, and it’s complimentary. This allows United to show the benefits of the United Club to a very targeted individual without the costs of traditional advertising, and without sacrificing click-through metrics that allow United to determine who received the notification and whether or not it was successful. Once inside the reception area, the passenger taps the Welcome NFC tag and proceeds to the lounge. Wi-fi access is then automatically offered and upon confirmation, the user’s device is connected.

Pre-flight Proximity: Snacks, Restaurants, Duty Free and More

For those of us who aren’t frequent flyers, the airport can be a real drain on time, from the long security lines, to navigating the terminal, to finding a place to dine. Airports might step in here and create a JFK app, or LAX app that users might load before their flights and enter in preferences. The app could notify the user of security wait times, and offer suggestions as they make their way through the terminal. Special dietary restrictions? Head over to gate 36 for the gluten-free wraps now available. Flying internationally? The duty-free shop is a short distance from your current location. The line is thin between providing a mobile experience that travelers find beneficial and one that annoys them with push notifications every 10 steps, but finding out the sweet spot is a challenge app developers and marketing teams need to address in order to create experiences that don’t intrude unnecessarily and passengers ultimately find helpful.

Welcome Aboard, Passenger!

As the passenger’s boarding time approaches for the flight, the user’s device displays a push notification: “Your Flight is Boarding. We Hope You Enjoyed Your Experience!”
Once inside the boarding area a beacon transmits to the user’s device and the application determines that the passenger’s group is now boarding and may proceed to the gate agent, scan the boarding pass, and board the aircraft. “Welcome Aboard” the application might announce as you cross the threshold onto the plane, “Your seat is 8A, to your right.”

Back on the Ground: Retrieve Luggage and Find Your Car

Once the passenger has arrived at the destination, or returned home, the baggage carousel might be announced via push notification and geofencing could be employed to determine whether or not to allow the passenger to pay for parking, pick up the rental car, or hail an Uber or a taxi. While these are just a few of the possibilities, we’d love to know what you think and whether or not there are other situations an airline might use proximity to make passengers’ experiences less stressful and more comfortable.




About Smartwhere

Smartwhere is a powerful proximity platform that allows you to quickly and easily integrate proximity solutions into your existing environment. Whether it’s mobile retail, interactive marketing, or location-based advertising, Smartwhere is an all-in-one cloud-based platform that delivers and manages relevant content to consumers and other end users when and where they need it.

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