Beacons in Transportation
How can beacons be used to make it easier to get from A to B? Various cities are using beacons to make public transport easier and companies are using beacons to facilitate private transportation.
If you’re looking for information about walking tours (we acknowledge that walking is a form of transportation), refer to the page called “Hackathon Guide” which outlines many forms of walking tours using beacons.
We all know flying is stressful, and it’s not helped by huge, crowded airports. For this reason, several airports are implementing beacon infrastructres to help patrons navigate the airport.
San Francisco Airport (SFO) has installed over 300 beacons in its terminals and created an app to aid the visually impaired in navigating the airport. Users will be able to use the app-and-beacon infrastructure to locate their departure gate, the nearest restroom, or even a power outlet or coffee. For those able to see, the app has a navigation system with a UI similar to GPS. For those who are unable to see their screens, the app works with Apple’s voiceover feature to read out points of interest as their beacons ping the user’s smartphone. Eventually the airport plans to make the app available to all travelers, but its primary focus is aiding those with disabilities.
One of the most frustrating experiences is a delay on the Deutsche Bahn. For those who live in less punctual societies than Germany, train delays are an even more frequent problem. One often does not know how late their train will be, and when they will end up where they’re going. A recent collaboration between Google and the city of Portland, Oregon (United States) seeks to use beacons to take some of this stress out of riding the train:
Trimet, the light rail provider in Portland, OR (USA) has partnered with Google to add a beacon infrastructure to its 87 stations. The beacons will not interact with the Trimet app, but rather with the most recent version of Google Maps, allowing a wider reach. As patrons stand on the platform they will receive updates about incoming trains and most importantly, expected delays. The beacon infrastructure will operate wirelessly and update in real time, thus providing information which is more reliable than the arrival/departure board.
The taxi industry is one transportation industry that has been shaken up recently by apps like Uber and Lyft, and is in need of innovation to hold its market share. One strategy being employed is to use beacons, one per cab, to make traditional taxis more like Uber:
An app called Hailo is using beacon technology to make regular cabs feel more like Ubers. The app is used to call a cab and interacts with a beacon inside the taxi to identify which rider is in which taxi. The app then automatically charges the rider for the fare, without them worrying about it at the end of the ride – as if it were an Uber. If the user has Hailo, but didn’t use it to call the cab, they will still be able to “pay with Hailo” in beacon-enabled taxis.
Another transportation app, TaxiMagic, is using beacon-enabled cabs to distribute referral codes. Users just exiting a cab will be able to send a referral code to anyone within range of the cab’s beacon, not just those people they have in their contacts list.
For those markets where taxi ridership is not wavering, taxi companies are using beacons to generate advertising revenue:
London’s black cabs are being outfitted with one beacon each to allow mobile advertisers to reach an ideally situated audience – wealthy, captive, and likely on their phone. Customers using an app to interact with black cabs will be asked to opt-in to receiving advertisements. The plan is to select advertisers that can allow riders to discover new things in London, such as restaurants they may not have tried before and suggestions for riders based on location within the city and other non-personally identifiable information. Studies show that these types of localized and tailored advertisements can result in click through rates upwards of 30%.