money-glitz | 29 Jan 2018

One question bothers most business travelers: how soon should I leave for the airport?

The length of one's stay in a Transportation Security Administration security lineis largely a matter of guesswork.Screening throws in a wildcard that can make you late for the gate - and your flight.

It's one reason airports are keen to post wait-times, though unfortunately that isusually availableonly when you areat the airport.

Airports, airlines and technology companies have deployed a variety of methods over the past 16 years of TSA screeningto assess queue times. Some have used people tomanually count passenger movement or gathered crowdsourced data from actual travelers, which is how the Transportation Security Administration collects wait information for its "MyTSA" app.

Other methods involve overhead cameras to mark entrance and exit times; sensors that detect the progress of travelers' mobile phonesthrough various bottlenecks; and predictive analytics that sort through an airport's passenger volume and the TSA's processing speeds at a particular time and location to formulate a decent guess.

Now, into this mix comes a new tool, one that uses a form of radar. It is being tested at four United States airports by an analytics company called Iinside and incorporated into a mobile app with partner TripIt Inc.

TripIt, a travel booking-and-tracking firm owned by Concur Technologies Inc., says it plans to incorporate the Iinside data from airports in Austin, Texas,Orlando, Florida, Denver and Phoenix into its TripIt Pro mobile app. Users will receive an alert three hours before a flight with current wait times, as well as real-time updates. Airport maps in the app will also show the nearest security checkpoint and which ones have the shortest lines.

TripIt will also merge the TSA wait data with commercially available traffic-flow information and airline flight status to advise travelers when to start driving to the airport, based on their GPS location. Over time, as the technology matures, security line wait-time data "should be part of your travel plans," says Jen Moyse, a TripIt product manager.

Iinside expects to equip more airports with its hardware, which uses LiDAR-based technology and Bluetooth, to mix traffic movements with machine-learning to adjust projected wait times.

Still, airport wait times may be a tough market to commercialize. Airports usually have limited budgets.


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