Tracking Travelers at the Airport
Reported March 2010
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Right now there are some 4,000 planes in the air. Two million people will fly on one today. That's 735 million a year. With all those flights come all those long lines at the airport. Knowing peak wait times could get passengers to the gate sooner. Now, a simple cell phone signal can help travelers get through security faster.
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It can be anyone's guess how long wait times are at airport security checkpoints. Some travelers whizz through security.
"I've been lucky," one traveler told Ivanhoe. "I'm sure other people have horror stories to tell."
While others aren't so lucky…
"I fly into Tampa, Florida quite a bit and there has been delays and long lines," another traveler complained.
In recent months, passengers have seen more pat-downs and bag searches at many airports, which can bog down security lines. Now, Darcy Bullock, Ph.D., a civil engineer at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., uses cell phone signals to track travelers and help airports reduce wait times.
"We can estimate or quantify how long it takes to get through the security line," Dr. Bullock explained.
Researchers placed electronic reader boxes at the beginning and end of a security lobby in an airport. The boxes record Bluetooth signals from cell phones of ticketed travelers, and monitor the time it takes passengers to travel through security lines. In Indianapolis, wait times peaked at 20 minutes at 6 am, then dropped to about 6 minutes during the day.
"The benefit if this technique gets adopted by other airports, would give a tool for authorities to say, 'Okay, how are we going to allocate resources between airports to most effectively address where we may have the longest wait times?'" Dr. Bullock said.
The information can help better manage congested airports, and help passengers avoid those long lines.
For privacy, researchers recorded only part of passenger's Bluetooth signal. It's like capturing only part of someone's license plate.
The American Society of Civil Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Darcy Bullock, P.E.
West Lafayette, IN 47905
The American Society of Civil Engineers
Reston, VA 20191-4400
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
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