Waiting is one of the worst parts of air travel.
First, you have to wait in line to check in. Then, there's the dreaded security line. Then, the line to actually get on the plane. New York's JFK Airport, however, has started using a new cell phone tracking system that tells users exactly how long they will be waiting.
The system is in use at Terminal 4, with 13 new information screens being implemented to provide wait times for the lines at security, customs and border protection. How do they make the predictions on how long users will wait? By tracking phones that have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth left on.
"This new system will help us manage and eliminate problem spots within the facility, and sharing the processing time with our travelers will provide them with peace of mind so they may continue to expect a pleasant travel experience," said Gert-Jan de Graaff, JFKIAT President and CEO in a statement. "Additionally, data from travelers' phones could eventually influence future airport design."
In the past, wait tracking systems have used things like stopwatches and security cameras, however, the new Terminal 4 system uses Blip Systems' wireless beacons, which essentially tracks, encrypts and timestamps a device based on its MAC address. The device can track multiple MAC addresses as they move down the line, enabling the system to calculate how long wait times are to the minute. This is much more accurate than systems used in the past.
Of course, there are likely to be some privacy concerns with the new system, however, the company says that the information being tracked is very secure. Not only that, but the information cannot be tied to a specific device or person. Additionally, the system does not need everyone in the line to be participating, so if someone does not want to be tracked, they can simply turn off their Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or put their device in airplane mode.