Rawpixel.com - Fotolia

Birmingham Airport uses sensor tracking to reduce queue times

Birmingham Airport has installed Wi-FI and Bluetooth sensors to gather valuable information on how long travellers are taking to move through the immigration process at the UK Border

Birmingham Airport has installed a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled sensor network alongside Blip Systems’ BlipTrack queue management technology in order to improve resource planning and give travellers an accurate indication of how long they will have to wait to enter the UK.

The airport recorded its busiest year ever in 2016, with over 11 million passengers transiting through the facility. Chris Wilson, head of terminal operations at Birmingham Airport, realised that it needed a solution to accurately measure queues and predict wait times.

Wilson enlisted software specialist Gentrack to implement the sensor-agnostic BlipTrack solution after a lengthy evaluation and tender process, meeting with a number of similar customers using the technology, such as Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester Airports.

Birmingham Airport placed dedicated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sensors around its north immigration hall to detect mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. By identifying devices as they pass multiple locations, the BlipTrack solution is able to generate accurate and anonymised statistical information on how long travellers are taking to move through the system.

“The data helps to understand the actual wait time for the border, as well as the discussion with the United Kingdom Border Force [UKBF] planning team and resourcing plans for the future,” said Wilson.

“By sharing the information on screens, we help reduce passenger frustration by creating realistic wait time expectations. It makes the passengers feel more relaxed and helps them to better plan the final elements of their journey and onward travel,” he added.

For Birmingham Airport, monitoring queue density in real time lets the UKBF better respond to irregular operations or disruptions, such as opening additional desks should several flights arrive in close succession. In turn, this helps Birmingham Airport comply with set service level agreements, and evaluate and challenge its key performance indicators.

Read more about device tracking

  • IT asset tracking can be used to ensure devices stay in a precise location or trace missing devices. Expert Michael Cobb covers the most popular products and services.
  • The chief innovation officer of a major healthcare system uses a smart wearable band to track steps, get notifications and stay active; he also sees it as a key health IT tool.

For passengers, live wait time information can now be shared on screens around the immigration hall to give people a clearer idea of how long they are likely to wait, hopefully improving user satisfaction and making people more likely to choose to fly through Birmingham Airport in the future.

“Today, many airports display wait times to their passengers. Typically, this is done by measuring dwell times of people leaving the line. However, these ‘historic’ times may not be accurate for those entering the line, especially if the number of people suddenly changes or more lines open up,” said Blip marketing manager Christian Bugislaus Carstens.

“BlipTrack combines and analyses both the number of people in line and the average throughput of the area. With these two measurements, accurate wait times can be displayed,” he said.

“It’s been an excellent project with great support from the design, installation and technical team. The Blip Systems team has helped the airport immensely with data analysis and reporting. Moving forward, we have plans to continue the project to incorporate other areas, such as the southbound security and immigration,” said Wilson.

Read more on Wireless networking

Data Center
Data Management