Virgin Atlantic’s passengers poised to get the ‘iBeacon’ experience

Imagine heading to a particular security checkpoint inside an airport terminal and suddenly your digital boarding pass pops up on your smartphone giving all the in-flight details. Wouldn’t that be a convenience? Well that’s what Richard Branson certainly has in mind for his Virgin Atlantic passengers.

London Heathrow Airport has been chosen by the airways to pilot first of its kind iBeacon services for its passengers. The plan is to place tiny beacon devices created by Estimote all over the Virgin Atlantic area in terminal 3 of the airport. The technology will initially be set to service iphone users using the Passbook application.

Using iBeacon’s microlocation functionality, relevant information will be pushed to passengers depending on their location inside the terminal. The location feature, also called geofencing works well away from the target at most 50 metres in distance thanks to the Low-Energy Bluetooth Technology (BLE). A host of services have been designed using the technology.

One of the major services is to provide notifications citing boarding details to passengers as they approach checkpoints. Another one is provide commission discount offers as passengers pass nearby currency exchange counters. Passengers could also be notified of offers as they approach duty-free areas. But the main aim is to enhance the customer experience of travel by using beacon as a surprise element for offering services. An example of this could be boarding flight and immediately getting notifications of in-flight crew details then and there. Now that would be quite an experience.

Some major use of the technology being considered is tracking of luggage which is usually a hassle in airports. Beacons attached to the piece of luggage could help the passenger track the journey of the baggage and know when and where to pick up the luggage. Besides such services, beacons equipped with thermometers and accelerometers could help alerting staff of temperature changes during flight. Other prominent services thought of are providing details of in-flight entertainment available.

Apple’s iBeacon is reaching different areas of service delivery day by day. In retail space, we can witness the beacons being there at numerous Apple stores as well as chains like Macy’s using beacon apps to aid their customers and enhance experience. Beacons have been used in MLB, NFL and NBA to provide rich in-stadium experience. Even international conferences like CES have showcased the elite experience that beacon technology provides. With Virgin Atlantic, it is finding a roadmap into the travel industry to be the ultimate guide to a traveller. It can certainly be predicted that more industries and market domains will come up with beacon related services.