Bluetooth helps airport monitor security line times

By Khambrel Marshall - Meteorologist, 'Newsmakers' Host

HOUSTON - We've all been there. You get to the airport, running right on the edge of making your flight until you hit the dreaded security checkpoint.

More often than not, regardless of the airport, that line seems long. But how long is the wait? And why couldn't you know that ahead of time?

Now you can! The Houston Airport System, as of Nov. 16, has implemented real-time data systems at Hobby Airport and at eight check points at George Bush Intercontinental Airport that allow you to track how long it takes to get through security checkpoints.

"We think this is a really cool tool that can provide passengers the information they need to make better travel plans," said Lisa Kent, the Houston Airport System chief information officer.

Kent the system going live now is based on Bluetooth technology and has been in the works for two years.

It works like this. One sensor is placed outside the entrance of a particular security area and picks up the signal as a passenger who has Bluetooth-enabled device walks by. Another sensor is placed just beyond the exit point of the security area and registers when that passenger exits.

The times of all such passengers are tracked, their times compiled and the averages updated every 15 minutes with the information then displayed on the website.

Kent said the colors on the website make it easy to determine your potential wait time.

"The colors we established were from zero to 10 minutes is green, 11 to 15 minutes is yellow and anything above 15 minutes is red," she said.

Travelers getting their first looks at the website and the concept were sold on the idea.

Erin Koehl, who was on her way to Oklahoma, said that from now on will be a part of her travel planning process.

"I live really close to Hobby, but it would be nice to know if I'm travelling somewhere how long it's taking to wait," she said.

"I travel a lot," said Marty Bass, who was on his way to California. "Knowing how much time it takes to get to the airport and through the check-out would be great information.  As long as I know how much time there is … that's all I need to know because then I can schedule my day."

Kent said they made great efforts to make sure the technology being used to track passengers' times doesn't actually track individual passengers. She said no one should worry about private information being gathered

"It's completely anonymous," she said. "We have no way of determining the associated telephone number or name of the individual who may own that device. It's strictly a hardware address."

The goal is to get 95 percent of the passenger traffic through checkpoints in 15 minutes or less. If it's going to take longer than that, and it certainly will at peak travel times, at least passengers will have an ability to know ahead of time and have enhanced ability to make plans.

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