Virgin Atlantic unveils new airport terminal experience powered by Apple's iBeacon

Posted:
in iPhone edited May 2014
Travelers on their way to and from Virgin Atlantic flights in London Heathrow airport are set to receive a new, more personalized experience, as the airline is piloting an iBeacon-powered program designed to ease passage and save time and money.




Using iBeacon's microlocation functionality, Virgin Atlantic's new initiative will automatically surface relevant information for passengers using iOS devices depending on their location in the airport. The airline partnered with iBeacon hardware firm Estimote for the physical infrastructure, while a custom pass in Apple's Passbook application provides the on-device interface.

In one example, passengers in Upper Class -- Virgin Atlantic's name for its combination business class and first class cabin -- can have their boarding pass automatically brought on-screen as they approach a security checkpoint. This feature could save travelers a significant amount of time and frustration as they would no longer need to keep track of a paper boarding pass or search through their device for an electronic version.

Virgin Atlantic also hopes to use iBeacons to help passengers once they are waiting for their flight. Passing by a Moneycorp currency exchange counter, for instance, would surface a special 0% commission discount offer unavailable to other travelers.




The Crawley, U.K.-based airline would like to personalize its offerings even further as the initiative progresses, according to customer engagement executive Reuben Arnold.

"At this stage, we've only skimmed the surface on the advantages that this technology can offer our customers," Arnold said in a release. "In the future, we expect it to further personalize our passenger's journey, such as notifying an Upper Class passenger that there is an open appointment in the Clubhouse spa or introducing the crew members on their flight as they board the aircraft."

Apple's iBeacon has seen rapid adoption since its introduction last year. The technology's ability to locate devices with a high degree of accuracy, especially inside buildings, has sparked a wave of creative uses.

Apple started the adoption ball rolling, outfitting all of its U.S. retail stores with transmitters. Perhaps the largest rollout to date, however, comes from Major League Baseball -- the league has equipped as many as 20 ballparks with iBeacons that help fans with information about stadium amenities, baseball history, and special offers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,017member
    If their best idea is to pop up spam when walking past a currency counter, they need to think things through a little more. A 0% commission doesn't mean squat when those places make their money on the crappy rates. Most have 0% commission coupon on their web sites.

    I love the iBeacon infrastructure and APIs. I think Apple is using it for AirDrop. It totally makes sense and is awesome.
  • Reply 2 of 49
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 905member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post



    If their best idea is to pop up spam when walking past a currency counter, they need to think things through a little more. A 0% commission doesn't mean squat when those places make their money on the crappy rates. Most have 0% commission coupon on their web sites.



    I love the iBeacon infrastructure and APIs. I think Apple is using it for AirDrop. It totally makes sense and is awesome.

    I suppose you think it's "cool" to be fashionably skeptical, critical, and negative, and to be the first to post such.

     

    I think the whole iBeacon thing is very interesting and a potentially significant feature of Apple's "ecosystem." Kudos to Virgin Atlantic and to Sir Richard for being amongst the first entities to adopt it!

  • Reply 3 of 49
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 1,923member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post

     
    I suppose you think it's "cool" to be fashionably skeptical, critical, and negative, and to be the first to post such.


     

    No, he said iBeacon is great, but he doesn't think using it for spam from money changers is a good application. He objected to a specific application, not the concept.

  • Reply 4 of 49
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 905member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

     

     

    No, he said iBeacon is great, but he doesn't think using it for spam from money changers is a good application. He objected to a specific application, not the concept.


    I was addressing the negative part of his post. These people slam things even before seeing or trying them. That's what I'm talking about.

  • Reply 5 of 49
    jfanningjfanning Posts: 3,375member
    Strange that the article is about Virgin Atlantic but the boarding information image refers to Virgin Australia, which is totally different company
  • Reply 6 of 49
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,269member
    I don't know whether it's the same tech or not, but Apple's Passbook has pretty much the same functionality, at least in terms of showing you an electronic version of your boarding pass when you enter the terminal, which is all I really want anyway.

    The one flaw I found, at least with Delta, is that if your seat is changed, the electronic boarding pass on the iPhone doesn't update.

    The last thing I want when walking through a terminal and carrying luggage is to be plagued with incessant notices about bogus discounts. On the other hand, if they want to let me into the Club for free, that would be fine.
  • Reply 7 of 49
    constable odoconstable odo Posts: 1,041member

    Exactly how does Apple monetize iBeacon tech?  Apple isn't building iBeacon hardware, right, so how does Apple make money from it.  Is iBeacon software being licensed to users?

  • Reply 8 of 49
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Exactly how does Apple monetize iBeacon tech?  Apple isn't building iBeacon hardware, right, so how does Apple make money from it.  Is iBeacon software being licensed to users?

    They sell more iDevices. iBeacons aren't anything "special" except that it's a well-thoughout idea on how to make out BT4.0 devices more usable.

    There is also stopping no one from using and iBeacons nodes. It's just BT4.0. It's not proprietary a vendor selling iBeacons to set up around a store or stadium can release an iOS, Android, WinPhone, Titzen, Fire OS, Symbian or any other app they want to make it look for those iBeacons. Any device with BT enabled already sees the "beacons" but they will ignore it unless programmed not to.

    Same with PassBook passes; nothing proprietary about the code in the passes.
  • Reply 9 of 49
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,472member

    It businesses start using iBeacons like iSpam, people by the millions will start turning it off. Hopefully Apple has set up guidelines to discourage iSpam.

  • Reply 10 of 49
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    jd_in_sb wrote: »
    It businesses start using iBeacons like iSpam, people by the millions will start turning it off. Hopefully Apple has set up guidelines to discourage iSpam.

    1) You can't turn off the iBeacon nodes unless you have access to them. I assume most will be in areas not easily accessed.

    2) Your device won't automatically let you know of any iBeacons. You have to have an app installed that has those iBeacon IDs listed for it send you any beacons info to your UI. If you don't want them you can change how you receive them, delete the app, or turn off BT altogether (going from the minimum to the extreme action). This is no different than current notifications we've had for years. You have complete control.
  • Reply 11 of 49
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,017member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

     

     

    No, he said iBeacon is great, but he doesn't think using it for spam from money changers is a good application. He objected to a specific application, not the concept.


    I was addressing the negative part of his post. These people slam things even before seeing or trying them. That's what I'm talking about.


     

    I actually slammed the currency counters and their "deals" more than Virgin popping up spam for said counters. The whole notion of using the virgin app to start notifying people of non-virgin related services and spamming offers is a poorly conceived one. This as Apple warns  its developers will end up with the end user silencing the notifications for their app.  

     

    The part about them only popping up boarding passes for Upper Class tickets also seems poorly thought through. Why limit that convenience to those passengers when other airlines offer it to any class?

     

    iBeacons is a great way to enable proximity based solutions. Unfortunately there will be lots of bad attempts until more use cases become obvious. The MLB ball parks offering up seat upgrades is well thought through use case. You get to your seat, not happy for one reason or another, upgrade. Pretty Brilliant actually and entirely obvious after the fact. I believe Virgin needs to re-think their use cases. In no way should saying that make me seem fashionably cool to anyone.

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    I don't know whether it's the same tech or not, but Apple's Passbook has pretty much the same functionality, at least in terms of showing you an electronic version of your boarding pass when you enter the terminal, which is all I really want anyway.



    The one flaw I found, at least with Delta, is that if your seat is changed, the electronic boarding pass on the iPhone doesn't update.



    The last thing I want when walking through a terminal and carrying luggage is to be plagued with incessant notices about bogus discounts. On the other hand, if they want to let me into the Club for free, that would be fine.

     

    iBeacons enable an easier way to the geo-fencing. It triggers based on seeing the beacon as well as other parameters such as signal strength (perceived distance from the beacon). It also allows you to trigger the applications much easier for broader deployments such as retail chains. Having an app look for every physical location of the store in the country is not easily achieved. Seeing a recognizable beacon in any location and getting that beacon to the right app is.

     

    Delta needs to update their app. You can do updates now, but used to not be able too. Pretty sure that was an iOS7 addition for using notifications to keep passbook items up to date.

     

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

     

    Exactly how does Apple monetize iBeacon tech?  Apple isn't building iBeacon hardware, right, so how does Apple make money from it.  Is iBeacon software being licensed to users?


     

    They make the APIs and software frameworks so that companies can easily make compelling solutions and offer them via Apple's ecosystem. That draws people in and makes them spend money for a very long time with current trends. 

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post

     

    It businesses start using iBeacons like iSpam, people by the millions will start turning it off. Hopefully Apple has set up guidelines to discourage iSpam.


     

    Not sure what Apple has in their documentation, but a WWDC 2013 session including iBeacons in your apps called this out quite clearly and they gave solid examples on best practices. They were down right insightful as you would expect them to be. I'm very excited about what this will enable for proximity solutions and experiences for the users.

  • Reply 12 of 49
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,017member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post



    It businesses start using iBeacons like iSpam, people by the millions will start turning it off. Hopefully Apple has set up guidelines to discourage iSpam.




    1) You can't turn off the iBeacon nodes unless you have access to them. I assume most will be in areas not easily accessed.



    2) Your device won't automatically let you know of any iBeacons. You have to have an app installed that has those iBeacon IDs listed for it send you any beacons info to your UI. If you don't want them you can change how you receive them, delete the app, or turn off BT altogether (going from the minimum to the extreme action). This is no different than current notifications we've had for years. You have complete control.

     

    I'm thinking that there will be quite a few deleted apps because that is the most obvious way the most people will come up with. I'm sure my parents have never adjusted notifications for an app. They would think to delete an app that bugs them too much.

  • Reply 13 of 49
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I'm thinking that there will be quite a few deleted apps because that is the most obvious way the most people will come up with. I'm sure my parents have never adjusted notifications for an app. They would think to delete an app that bugs them too much.

    Possibly, but remember they'd have to, for example, have installed the Bed, Bath & Beyond app on their device and be in a Bed, Bath & Beyond to be receiving these location sensitive messages. I don't think BB&B would pay Starbucks to let you know that there are some great deals at BB&B right now. That's as likely as any app you have installed right now sending you a notification out of the blue for some other store.

    Shazam is the only app I've ever owned that has been sending me anything that comes close to being spam-ish.

    But this is a self correcting system, just like with any app notifications, because if you delete the app they likely lose you forever. This isn't like email spam.
  • Reply 14 of 49
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    In one example, passengers in Upper Class -- Virgin Atlantic's name for its combination business class and first class cabin -- can have their boarding pass automatically brought on-screen as they approach a security checkpoint. 
     




    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jfanning View Post



    Strange that the article is about Virgin Atlantic but the boarding information image refers to Virgin Australia, which is totally different company

    And she is in Economy class. According to the article, that feature is available only to upper class passengers.

  • Reply 15 of 49
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,017member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post



    I'm thinking that there will be quite a few deleted apps because that is the most obvious way the most people will come up with. I'm sure my parents have never adjusted notifications for an app. They would think to delete an app that bugs them too much.




    Possibly, but remember they'd have to, for example, have installed the Bed, Bath & Beyond app on their device and be in a Bed, Bath & Beyond to be receiving these location sensitive messages. I don't think BB&B would pay Starbucks to let you know that there are some great deals at BB&B right now. That's as likely as any app you have installed right now sending you a notification out of the blue for some other store.



    Shazam is the only app I've ever owned that has been sending me anything that comes close to being spam-ish.



    But this is a self correcting system, just like with any app notifications, because if you delete the app they likely lose you forever. This isn't like email spam.

     

    At some point I may end up sitting in a crowded mall and transmitting the beacon IDs of all of the spamiest apps. If you see an offer for currency conversion via your Virgin app, know I am there. :)

  • Reply 16 of 49
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

     
    Possibly, but remember they'd have to, for example, have installed the Bed, Bath & Beyond app on their device and be in a Bed, Bath & Beyond to be receiving these location sensitive messages. I don't think BB&B would pay Starbucks to let you know that there are some great deals at BB&B right now. That's as likely as any app you have installed right now sending you a notification out of the blue for some other store.


    Don't you also have to have that app running as well? I think it was smart for Virgin to use Passbook as their iBeacon app platform. If everyone did that at least you wouldn't have to have so many stand alone apps. I really don't have any of those apps so I'm not sure how it works. Does Apple use the Apple Store app for their iBeacon support?

  • Reply 17 of 49
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    mstone wrote: »
    Don't you also have to have that app running as well? I think it was smart for Virgin to use Passbook as their iBeacon app platform. If everyone did that at least you wouldn't have to have so many stand alone apps. I really don't have any of those apps so I'm not sure how it works. Does Apple use the Apple Store app for their iBeacon support?

    From what I read, you do, because it the service needs to be able to tell the app that an iBeacon ID it looks for is in range (and what that range is) and then it decides how to respond to you.

    PassBook passes are great because those passes with their time and/or locations are always present. I use my Starbucks pass daily to pay for my subpar but consistent beverage.The pass shows on my iPhone when I'm near it, I swipe from left to right, and then use their scanner. Within a couple seconds of paying Starbuck's server pushes an updated balance to their Starbucks app which also updates the PassBook pass. I know you're a fan of Starbucks but their usage of Apple's convenience technologies are the best I've seen, hence using it as an example.
  • Reply 18 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,462member
    mstone wrote: »
    Don't you also have to have that app running as well? I think it was smart for Virgin to use Passbook as their iBeacon app platform. If everyone did that at least you wouldn't have to have so many stand alone apps. I really don't have any of those apps so I'm not sure how it works. Does Apple use the Apple Store app for their iBeacon support?
    solipsismx wrote: »
    From what I read, you do, because it the service needs to be able to tell the app that an iBeacon ID it looks for is in range (and what that range is) and then it decides how to respond to you.
    IIRC Apple has changed the way iBeacon works with one of the recent iOS point updates. It's no longer necessary for a user to open the app to enable communication with an appropriate Beacon. Simply having it resident on your phone is all that's required. Yes you read that right. The user can intentionally close the app absolutely and completely yet it will still interface with iBeacons, pushing notifications to your lockscreen anyway. Developers and advertisers will appreciate the new functionality.

    EDIT: Yes I recalled correctly
    http://beekn.net/2014/03/apple-ios-7-1-launches-major-ibeacon-improvement/
  • Reply 19 of 49
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,462member
    jd_in_sb wrote: »
    It businesses start using iBeacons like iSpam, people by the millions will start turning it off. Hopefully Apple has set up guidelines to discourage iSpam.

    Soli is right. You can't turn iBeacons off as it's simply an add-on feature connected to the Bluetooth function.. If you have an appropriate app installed that uses them turning off the app or even rebooting your phone won't prevent push notifications from them. As of 7.1 iBeacon apps don't have to be opened by the user anymore and closing them doesn't mean they stop working.
  • Reply 20 of 49
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    gatorguy wrote: »

    IIRC Apple has changed the way iBeacon works with one of the recent iOS point updates. It's no longer necessary for a user to open the app to enable communication with an appropriate Beacon. Simply having it resident on your phone is all that's required. Yes you read that right. The user can intentionally close the app absolutely and completely yet it will still interface with iBeacons, pushing notifications to your lockscreen anyway. Developers and advertisers will appreciate the new functionality.

    EDIT: Yes I recalled correctly
    http://beekn.net/2014/03/apple-ios-7-1-launches-major-ibeacon-improvement/

    I wasn't aware of these changes, but these are good changes because the apps that would benefit from a location-based BT-actived notification probably aren't going to be used often, so I might go several months between hitting certain places and in that time a point update will probably have caused me to reboot my phone.
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