Airports Could Begin Tracking Your Wi-Fi Trail

In the past few years, surveillance and other technological advances within airports have drastically increased security, while simultaneously inconveniencing almost every run-of-the-mill passenger. New Wi-Fi tracking systems, while a potential harbinger of an overstep in personal privacy, could actually prove beneficial to the average traveler.

The Geneva-based aviation communications and technology company, SITA, has begun implementing a method of tracking the movements of travelers in airports based on devices that emit Wi-Fi signals.

It would seem that this tracking could prove to be an encroachment on travelers’ privacy. SITA insists, however, that not only are the airport-goers only represented as dots on monitoring screens (shown as different colors to indicate whether the traveler is departing or arriving), but that this tracking is for their own good.

Dave Bakker, senior vice president for SITA Global Services, says that through tracking traveler’s movements, analysts can determine the crowd flow and the most effective places to set up security and immigration checkpoints. By knowing where everyone is at any given moment, foot traffic can be diverted to cut down on wait times in security lines.

The more commercial benefit of this tracking is, through pairing the technology with a smartphone app, vendors can use proximity alerts to give consumers deals and information when they get within range of a store.

“Concessions are a strong revenue generator,” said Pauline Armbrust, president of Airport Revenue News. With a more accurate picture of where these passengers are and what they are doing in the airport, the spending could increase $5 to $10, according to several industry marketing specialists.

While it would be nice to believe that this technology is an innocuous way to direct traffic and offer deals, as a security company, we can’t help but look at the potential criminal applications for Wi-Fi tracking. For now the program is confined to the Copenhagen International Airport (where it will launch within weeks), with hopes of a broader extension to other world airports in coming months. Hopefully for the average traveler, this technology will remain a boon geared to make the typically tedious task of travel more painless.

(Via The New York Times) / (Image by Karl Baron, licensed under Creative Commons)

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