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This Airport Is Set to Become First in U.S. to Implement 'Anonymous Tracking' of Cellphones


"Creates a unique number for your device, and then you get tracked through the process ..."

image shutterstock

If you ever find yourself traveling through the Cincinnati airport, there are a few things you should know; you actually aren't in Ohio, you will see flying pigs and your phone will be tracked.

These are facts.

The international airport, which sees roughly 5.7 million travelers a year, will be the first in the United States to monitor fliers' cellphones while they wait to pass through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

Airport security lines Cincinnati Airport has entered into an agreement with Lockheed Martin to use their BlipTrack system for monitoring traveler's traffic flow, through security and at other points in the airport (Image source: Shutterstock).

Travelers’ smartphones and other Wi-Fi-equipped gadgets will be tracked at CVG via Lockheed Martin's BlipTrack system, which is designed to identify congested areas swiftly and display wait times for the security checkpoint, according to Businessweek.

The airport and Lockheed jointly announced the news Wednesday, saying the technology is "completely anonymous."

"Lockheed Martin’s Chroma Airport Collaboration Database is a system of technologies that helps airports see how passengers move through their terminals so they can understand and improve the travel experience," the airport said in a statement. "BlipTrack, a part of ChromaACDB, is a completely anonymous way of monitoring passenger throughput times using mobile device signals to measure time between points through the airport."

Lockheed says BlipTrack does not send or track any personal information; it simply monitors the number of mobile phone signals in a given area. This information is then used to provide a real-time picture of passenger flow through the airport.

“The BlipTrack technology benefits both passengers and the airport team as it allows them to see, in real time, where potential queues and pressure points are and provide proactive planning of the situation to improve service," Martin Bowman, Lockheed Martin Global Airports director, said.

“Knowing where there is congestion allows passengers to avoid lines – so they can spend more time shopping or relaxing in the airport. This is all about improved collaboration between the airport, airlines and TSA for the enhancement of the passenger experience,” he said.

Melissa Wideman, CVG spokeswoman, said travelers will engage with the device simply by walking into the security area; the technology will pick up on your smart phone or tablet's Wi-Fi connection.

"Once you walk through the (security) boxes then it connects and creates a unique number for your device, and then you get tracked through the process," she said. "So they are at different locations so once you cross into the security area as you are in the queue and once you give your ID and ticket to the TSA person there's also a device there so they can track how long it takes from once you enter into security how long it takes you to get through security."

About half of airport passengers carry a Wi-Fi-enabled device such as a smartphone or laptop, Bowman says, and that number is only expected to rise. Over time, BlipTrack’s wireless signal tracking will allow the airport to analyze passengers’ movements more closely and collect data on how people use retail and restaurant options. “How long is the line at Starbucks?” Wideman said. "How much time are people spending in our shops?”

[sharequote align="center"]"BlipTrack ... is a completely anonymous way of monitoring passenger throughput times using mobile device signals to measure time between points through the airport.[/sharequote]

Wideman told TheBlaze the tracking step is an attempt to find efficiencies for customers, which has dropped by roughly 8 million customers per year since Delta's 2008 merger with Northwest, but was still ranked as the top U.S. airport by a British firm Skytrax in 2013.

"We emphasize the customer service experience at CVG and so we want our passengers to get through security as quickly as possible," she said. "We are applying technology to that process, so the total number of travelers is irrelevant, but we want our passengers we do have to have the best experience possible and maximize efficiency where we have influence."

Wideman said no signs will be posted letting customers know that their devices will be tracked, but that customers will be able to see the live stream of their wait times on display screens.

flying pig The infamous CVG Flying Pig welcomes guests as the fly in to Cincinnati and claim their baggage, the Lockheed Martin BlipTrack system will greet them as they enter security flying out of the city formerly known as "Porkopolis" (Image source: Twitter).

The U.S. debut of the technology will be hosted at the airport which is actually in Kentucky, across the river from the city dubbed "Porkopolis" in the 1820's while it was the country's top pork producer. In celebration of the bacon-friendly moniker, several "Flying Pig" statues are found at prominent locations throughout the city, one being at the baggage claim at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

But for those who find airworthy pork about as realistic as "completely anonymous" tracking technology, now you know where to find both.


(H/T: Business Week)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.  


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