IoT Technology Cuts Airport Security Waits

Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport is the latest to adopt a sensor-based system known as BlipTrack, which uses encrypted data collected from cell phones and tablets to estimate wait times—helping the airport to reduce those times by up to a third.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 24, 2015

Security line wait times at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) are down by about 33 percent due to the use of a mobile technology solution installed last summer that allows the airport to address long lines as they occur. The BlipTrack system, provided by Danish information technology firm Blip Systems, collects the locations of passengers moving through the security process, via their smartphones and tablets, and calculates wait times based on that data.

Since the system's installation, the airport has been able to better identify where and when long queues develop at the security area. It now broadcasts wait times to arriving customers, offers real-time security line wait times on its website, and deploys Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and other airport personnel based on line length. Initial testing conducted at the airport showed that wait times could be reduced by as much as 33 percent compared to pre-BlipTrack waits, based on benchmark measurements.

A sensor mounted on a column near a wait line
CVG is the first U.S. airport to launch the mobile phone-based tracking solution from Blip Systems. However, the technology has already been deployed at 22 other airports worldwide.

BlipTrack measures queue dwelling times around the airport, from check-in and baggage claim to taxi queues and customs. It also determines how long it takes for passengers to move from one area to another, says Christian Bugislaus Carstens, Blip Systems' marketing manager. The technology is being piloted at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, as well as at airports in Phoenix and San Diego.

BlipTrack employs both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios to collect the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses being broadcast by individual phones or tablets carried by passengers. These devices continuously emit their MAC number, unless the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functions are disabled. The system also includes a security feature, Carstens says, to ensure the privacy of those whose phones' MAC addresses the system is receiving. Each address is anonymous, but once received by a sensor, it is also encrypted before being sent to the secure cloud server. "We are in no way able to collect personal data," he states.

The BlipTrack sensors are mounted on walls or other infrastructure, and use Power-over-Ethernet to transmit data back to the server. While it is possible to connect with devices over Wi-Fi from up to 50 meters (164 feet) away, Carstens notes, "we usually limit the range to about 10 meters [32.8 feet]."

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