United Airways Brings Extremely Detailed In-Airport Maps To Its iOS App

Irrespective of how superior telephone mapping applied sciences have turn out to be, moving into an airport takes you again a number of many years into the period of bodily maps. With no different manner for unseasoned travels to get round apart from giant map kiosks, airport navigation has lengthy been due for an improve.

As part of its new, up to date app launching later right this moment, United Airways is integrating clever indoor mapping know-how into its cellular app for iOS. Up to now, the United app has been downloaded over 19 million occasions. An replace for Android with the identical options is anticipated this Fall.


“This is a very specific technology that talks to a real need of the customer,” defined Shannon Kelly, Director of eCommerce Planning and Supply at United. “We had the technology, we had the customer need for it.”

Carlos Faxas, a Buyer Options Supervisor at United, defined that the thought resulted from an inner seek for know-how that improved the airport expertise for purchasers. “United wants to drive a more contextual experience,” he mentioned.

The search led United to San Francisco-based Locus Labs, an organization that builds platforms for indoor mapping.

Campbell Kennedy, CEO of Locus Labs, defined that there was a possibility for the corporate to extract info from photos creating higher maps. Previously a DARPA Grand Problem contestant, he was additionally a member ofGoogle’s autonomous car workforce. He in contrast the mapping course of to that utilized by Google’s Road View system.

“I think that I really saw an opportunity there with all these pictures, millions and millions of pictures all of the world. It’s not just the picture that has value, but also the metadata that is in those pictures.”

Analyzing high-resolution photos of airport terminals allowed United and Locus Labs to create extremely detailed maps, defined Faxas. “We can also use the maps to derive accurate distances between objects and points of interest, which is really helpful for a user,” he mentioned. “We can tell them, for example, your walking time at Newark [to your gate] is a 7-minute walk.”


At current, the maps function shall be obtainable in United’s seven home hubs.

“We’ll try to pin your gates down according to your travel wallet, but if you’re somewhere else in the building you’ll self-identify your nearest point of interest, and then you can search your destination and it will give you your walk time,” mentioned Faxas, explaining how a person would navigate by way of an airport utilizing the app. “We [even] try to identify escalators and their positions to help you navigate the airport.”

Photographs are captured utilizing what Kennedy in comparison with a stroller-sized model ofGoogle’s Road View vehicles, outfitted with lasers, cameras, and inertial measuring models.

“We actually push this system around the publicly accessible areas of the airport,” defined Kennedy. “We take photos throughout, and we also build a floor plan out of the data that is collected there and convert it into a consumer-facing map and database of things, not just places, but things, everywhere.”

Referred to as a ‘reality capture system’ by Kennedy, the system helps remedy the issue of gathering granular location information at scale.

“This is really the crux of the problem with search of the physical world. You need to collect this information at scale and surface it to people at appropriate times.”

Campbell Kennedy (left) and Dan Landino (right) of Locus Labs next to an version of their map capture platform

Beacon-based mapping raises privateness points

Whereas all of United’s hubs will profit from this rudimentary mapping know-how, United and Locus labs are engaged on a pilot program at United’s terminal at Newark Airport that makes use of beacon know-how for extra correct positioning.

“I like to think of it as your father’s Bluetooth,” joked Faxas, addressing issues about beacons draining battery life by evaluating their utilization to a ‘paired’ smartwatch or health band.

“I have beacons installed throughout one of the terminals at Newark Airport, and we use that to provide people with a ‘blue dot’ and location reference,” mentioned Kennedy, who additionally famous that beacons would assist create personalised experiences for various customers.

Beacon technology is being tested at United's Newark terminal.

“I might want to have a different message to a person, or a different experience or path, if they’re coming off a jet way into the airport or if they’re coming from off the street,” he added.

The introduction of beacon know-how raises problems with privateness, and worries about United and Locus Labs utilizing location information to trace customers and for contextual advertising. Jennifer Dohm, a spokeswoman for United, was fast to handle these issues.

“Currently we are only using the beacons for their connection to the maps,” she mentioned. “Our mission as an organization is getting folks from Level A to Level B, [so] we don’t essentially have the necessity to monitor the shopper.

Whereas United has no plans to trace location information on this method, Kennedy defined that the potential nonetheless exists.

“The technology infrastructure is there to provide a much more personalized experience,” he mentioned. “We [can] combine this location information with their itinerary to be able to really provide a customized experience.”

“To my knowledge, United is not necessarily doing that yet,” he assured.

Faxas defined that United and Locus labs count on to see prospects use mapping at airports in a different way than they’d in different eventualities.

“Walking in the airport, at low speed, where you have the ability to switch direction without danger, it’s much lower stakes,” he defined. “We think that users will basically pull up the maps, find something of interest to them, they’re going to see the general direction, and almost shut their phone off and walk to that general direction, and when they get to a point of decision and intersection, they’ll open their phones again.”

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