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Passenger Flow Management: Bluetooth not fit for purpose

We have previously discussed why airports should implement passenger flow management solutions, explaining the benefits to both airports and passengers in minimizing queues and optimising a passenger’s journey.

Most airports now acknowledge the importance of passenger flow management, but the debate continues as to the best way to do it. There are numerous options including Facial Recognition, People Counters and Device Tracking.

It is this latter method and in particular Bluetooth that we believe is simply not fit for the purpose.


Limitations of Bluetooth

There are a number of reasons for why Bluetooth should not be used for passenger flow management:

Not a primary technology

Bluetooth is a secondary technology that relies on having a device that is Bluetooth enabled and discoverable. The device has a primary purpose, be it a mobile phone or tablet etc. and Bluetooth piggy backs on this piece of primary technology as a secondary feature.

This leads to low usage rates. Bluemedia Server say 90% of people have Bluetooth turned off. This is likely to increase as the latest Android OS and iOS now disable discovery mode by default.

Battery life

This is currently a major reason for passengers having Bluetooth switched off. Bluetooth is renowned for reducing battery life. This is particularly true in areas of low signal as it requires more battery power to send a signal in these conditions.

Furthermore with the launch of Bluetooth 4.1 at the end of this year, the new specification will use smarter timing and techniques for low-power data bursts to improve the battery life of devices, further reducing Bluetooth trackers ability to accurately track a device through an airport.

Technology obsolescence

As mobile technology evolves it is likely that Bluetooth will be replaced either by a new technology or, as the launch of version 4.1 illustrates, new versions of Bluetooth.

We have already seen the introduction of NFC technologies and mobile phones apps utilising GPS. Such technology pushes Bluetooth down the order and further removes the need for passengers to activate it on their devices.

Low capture rates

Speaking to some of our clients who have had first-hand experience of Bluetooth and we were shocked by the capture rates that had been achieved. We have heard reports of capture rates as low as 2% in a country where mobile phones have a market penetration rate of over 171% (one of the highest in the world).

Person proxy

Device tracking technology uses the Bluetooth enabled device as a proxy for a person. If an individual does use Bluetooth then it is feasible they will be carrying more than one device enabled and discoverable e.g. a mobile phone, tablet, headphones and laptop. Bluetooth trackers would count this as 4 devices rather than one person and importantly drastically skew the data.

So when you add all these issues up and combine them with issues that we have highlighted previously, you will see that the limitations of Bluetooth mean that it cannot deliver the data that airports need to make proper operational decisions.

Advantages of Facial Recognition for Passenger Flow Management

The simple fact is that all passengers always travel with their face. This gives the best granularity and most accurate measurement as location is measured in centimetres or millimetres rather than metres. Other advantages of facial recognition include:

  • Measures actual passengers not the devices they are carrying.
  • Completely passive systems – no conscious interaction required from passengers.
  • No impact on passenger journey – ensures passengers are processed quickly, enabling the maximum level of retail time, a positive customer experience, and improved customer service.
  • States may permit a number of security benefits should they wish to do so. For example, for watch lists, face (photograph) is generally the only biometric available for comparison.

To find out how MFlow Journey can help you accurately measure passenger flow through your airport, complete the form below or call us today on +44(0)333 456 2001.

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