WORLD WISE

Air­ports are dis­cov­er­ing a more dis­creet way of watch­ing your every move

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - Sam Kamel is the Pres­i­dent & CEO of iin­side (www.iin­side.com), a lead­ing provider of In­door Mo­tion An­a­lyt­ics for SMART Air­ports. WORDS SAM KAMEL

Eyes on You Air­ports dis­cover a more dis­creet way of watch­ing your every move

If your in­tu­ition tells you that you’re be­ing watched at an air­port, you’re not wrong. Like most busy pub­lic venues to­day, air­ports and the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der­stand hu­man sur­veil­lance is a crit­i­cal as­pect of pub­lic safety. How­ever, it’s a prac­tice that makes pas­sen­gers feel a lit­tle un­easy nonethe­less. Some view it as an in­va­sion of pri­vacy, while oth­ers worry about the in­for­ma­tion be­ing col­lected about them and who sees it. Th­ese are very real and un­der­stand­able con­cerns in to­day’s era of data­base hacks and rogue back-room be­hav­ior.

How­ever, sev­eral air­ports around the United States are ex­plor­ing a new way of fol­low­ing pas­sen­ger jour­neys that watches more dis­creetly and pro­tects peo­ple’s iden­tity. McCar­ran Air­port in Las Ve­gas, San Jose In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port, and a hand­ful of other for­ward-think­ing air­ports are ex­per­i­ment­ing with some­thing called Li­DAR to mon­i­tor pas­sen­ger flows and be­hav­iors.

Li­DAR is a 3D imag­ing tech­nol­ogy best known for its ap­pli­ca­tion in au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles. With it, air­ports can ob­serve in real-time the flow of pas­sen­gers through their fa­cil­i­ties. This tech­nol­ogy, which uses safe, in­vis­i­ble laser beams to de­tect ob­jects both in mo­tion and at rest, is more ac­cu­rate than Blue­tooth- or WiFi-based in­door lo­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy. Li­DAR is also bet­ter at safe­guard­ing pas­sen­ger iden­ti­ties than stereo­scopic cam­eras, which ac­tu­ally cap­ture pix- elated pas­sen­ger images. In con­trast, Li­DAR con­verts po­si­tional data into anony­mous 3D point cloud data, fully pro­tect­ing pas­sen­ger iden­ti­ties.

A sin­gle Li­DAR sen­sor is ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing the ex­act co­or­di­nates and ve­loc­ity of every per­son within an area of over 300,000 square feet. And un­like stereo­scopic cam­eras, which re­quire ideal light­ing con­di­tions (i.e., enough light to see), have a nar­row field of view and per­form best in high-ceil­ing en­vi­ron­ments, Li­DAR sen­sors can op­er­ate in chal­leng­ing light­ing con­di­tions, across all ceil­ing heights, and their ac­cu­racy is not af­fected by sun­light through air­port win­dows or by poor light­ing con­di­tions.

Us­ing the data cap­tured by Li­DAR, air­ports can ad­just their op­er­a­tions to help re­duce wait times and im­prove the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence. They can iden­tify foot traf­fic bot­tle­necks or see where pas­sen­gers are mov­ing more quickly. They can un­der­stand how wait times build or how long it’s tak­ing pas­sen­gers to get through TSA check­points.

Pas­sen­gers armed with this air­port in­for­ma­tion may more con­fi­dently plan their trip to the air­port stress free for this phase of travel. Uti­liz­ing Li­DAR-gen­er­ated data, air­ports can ac­cu­rately pre­dict “time-to-gate” for their pas­sen­gers. This data can also be valu­able to other travel providers, such as Uber or Lyft, al­low­ing them to sug­gest al­ter­nate pick-up times for their pas­sen­gers, or point them to the shorter se­cu­rity line, en­sur­ing pas­sen­gers make their flights on time. The pop­u­lar travel plan­ning app, TripIt, is among the first to tap into this air­port-gen­er­ated data in Austin, Or­lando, Den­ver and Phoenix. TripItPro users re­ceive an alert three hours be­fore their flight with cur­rent wait times, as well as real-time up­dates. Air­port maps in the app also show the near­est se­cu­rity check­points and iden­tify the ones that have the short­est lines.

With a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of “time-to­gate,” air­ports can also im­prove their bot­tom line. Get­ting trav­el­ers to their gates ex­pe­di­tiously gives them more time to spend shop­ping in re­tail stores, or grab­bing a bite at the con­ces­sions – both ma­jor rev­enue-driv­ers for air­ports. Air­port op­er­a­tors can also use the data to in­tel­li­gently po­si­tion their store­fronts and in­door ad­ver­tis­ing to take ad­van­tage of foot-traf­fic flows.

While some peo­ple may never ap­pre­ci­ate hav­ing “big brother” look­ing on at an air­port, the use of Li­DAR tech­nol­ogy cer­tainly makes the prac­tice much more palat­able for pas­sen­gers – and it’s im­prov­ing their over­all travel ex­pe­ri­ence. So the next time you sail swiftly through a TSA check­point, or you’re alerted to leave for the air­port a lit­tle early, or you have a few spare min­utes to eat and shop be­fore head­ing to your gate – you may ac­tu­ally thank a Li­DAR so­lu­tion for mak­ing that all pos­si­ble.

A sin­gle Li­DAR sen­sor is ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing the ex­act co­or­di­nates and ve­loc­ity of every per­son within an area of over 300,000 square feet.

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