London will have first Internet of Things airport!

Posted on 6th May 2013 in cities, Internet of Things, transportation

I’ve been arguing for airports as ideal laboratories for advanced, free wireless communications ever since a 2002 op-ed in the Boston Business Journal in which I chided Logan Airport for charging for wi-fi. It seems to me that airports, with such a high percentage of sophisticated users with advanced mobile devices combined with complex logistics, are perfect places to apply the latest innovations.

That’s why I was delighted to see that London City Airport, the city’s downtown, business-oriented one, will offer the first Internet of Things enabled services.

The services will be developed by Living PlanIt (“technology for sustainable cities”) and retail developer Milligan  (“..creates places where people like to shop”) in cooperation with the UK’s Technology Strategy Board.

According to Robin Daniels, Living PlanIt’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, the project’s goal is all-encompassing:

“Everything that’s uncomfortable, inconvenient or just a pain in the neck about traveling, we’re trying to turn into a more pleasurable experience,”

Among other services, the “The Living PlanIT Urban Operating System™” will:

  • track passengers through facial recognition and crowd-sourcing software plus GPS
  • automatically deliver food to people who pre-order food online or through their smartphone
  • let someone who pre-booked a taxi step right into it
  • track luggage in real-time (if someone misses their flight, their bag won’t be loaded).
  • retailers in the terminal  “will use a combination of cameras and sensors to monitor buyer behavior and to get a better sense of what types of displays work. They will also be able to offer shoppers customized offers based on previous purchases.”

The system will observe privacy concerns by making the services opt-in.  However, Evangeis Ouzounis, the head of the secure infrastructure and services unit at the European Network and Information Security Agency, worries about possible vulnerability to hackers:

“They might jam a smart device to make systems not available in the airport, or play with the bar code of flight tickets, so that you can have access to a space you shouldn’t have access to.”

I don’t know about you, but I find flying post 9/11 to be the most stressful activity imaginable. If there are adequate security and privacy protections in place, I’d gladly opt-in for IoT services!

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