What’s Needed? -- Key Indoor Location Technology for Airports & Retail

Juha Mattsson

Key Indoor Location Technology for Airports & Retail

This blog post gives a brief overview of the key elements of a robust technology platform that is required to implement indoor location based services (including offline ad retargeting) at airports, retail stores, shopping malls and other locations similar in magnitude. Be sure to check the typical stages of adopting location based services from my earlier post.

WiFi Positioning, Door Counters & Cameras for Analytics

Among different indoor people counting and positioning technologies, WiFi is clearly the most cost-effective and widely adopted in terms of existing hardware. WiFi has great positioning capabilities at large spaces, with several advantages over cameras and counters, such as the ability to track repeat visit patterns. Due to lightweight hardware requirements, WiFi is also very scalable, and a large proportion of mobile users have their WiFi turned on and thus reachable.

Sometimes though, door counters & advanced camera technology is needed at specific locations for supplementing WiFi analytics, including high-precision analysis of shopping behavior and gestures.

Bluetooth Beacons for Customer Engagement

Bluetooth beacons (or iBeacons, as Apple calls them), are small battery operated physical ‘location tags’ that can be placed anywhere. Beacons are great at triggering content & functionality in smartphone apps when you enter their proximity -- they simply tell a smartphone app that the user is now at a specific location.

People sometimes ask what does WiFi add to bluetooth beacons -- couldn’t we use beacons only? While beacons may be used in positioning, too, WiFi is clearly more robust in large spaces such as airports because of its wider range. Beacons are also limited for people flow analytics because they only reach those people who have a specific app installed. With beacons, analytics information also needs to be transmitted to servers via individual devices' data connections whereas WiFi is directly connected to the backend.

WiFi also adds several key functionalities in terms of beacon management & security, such as preventing beacon tampering by location verification & ID management.

Smartphone Apps & SDK for Delivering Content

For location-triggered services & content, smartphone and tablet apps are required to display notifications, offers & recommendations, retargeted ads, and any other location-aware service such as wayfinding guidance to a specific service/product at an airport or in a department store.

Many retailers, airports, malls and restaurant chains already have their existing apps. Indoor location capabilities can be easily added with an SDK - a compact software library to be added to existing app code.

Dashboard Tools for Analytics, Marketing Automation, Admin

Whether people flow analytics, queue management, offline marketing & sales funnel analytics, proximity marketing, or offline retargeting campaigns, all of these require robust, easy-to-use and visual dashboard accessible from desktop and tablets. Also comprehensive management and security tools are required for keeping the location infrastructure in operation 24/7 while constantly updating and adding new locations.

Enterprise Grade Backend Platform for Connecting Online and Offline

A majority of the power of an indoor location platform is actually made possible by the backend architecture not visible to any user. Here’s a brief overview of the main components that are required to make it happen in a scalable and robust manner:

  • Automation engine for triggering location based content, based on rich user profiles and campaign rules
  • Analytics engine for people flow and location based campaign analytics
  • Rich customer database, integrating positioning data to relevant other profile/loyalty data from multiple points of the passenger journey for opt-in customers
  • Management & security layers to protect privacy (admin tools)
  • Integrations to existing systems such as e-commerce, CRM, marketing automation, POS,  and content management
  • Rich APIs for importing/exporting data & location based triggers

The Walkbase solution is built on the above elements, and gives airports, retailers and app developers all the necessary elements to start implementing indoor location based services -- to build a robust and scalable infrastructure that is easy-to-use and adopt, and has the built-in flexibility and privacy needed in diverse implementations.

Contact us and we’d be happy to tell more!

This is the third blog post in a series of three posts on how indoor location technology will change the business of airports and how passengers experience their stay at airports. The other two topics are:

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Walkbase provides a retail analytics solution for improving the impact of marketing on physical stores and personalising in-store shopping experience.