Virgin Atlantic to trial iBeacons at the airport

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson (Credit: Virgin)

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson (Credit: Virgin)

Could iBeacons help improve the air travel experience? Sir Richard Branson thinks they could.

Branson’s majority-owned Virgin Atlantic is the latest company to hop aboard the iBeacon bandwagon — announcing plans to use the technology to send customized messages to passenger’s iPhones in London’s Heathrow airport in the UK.

The program, which is being created in conjunction with beacon startup Estimote, will use Apple’s iBeacons technology in conjunction with the Passbook iOS app.

Potential applications could include everything from travel information, to targeted ads. In one described application, passengers would receive offers on their iPhones, directing them to no-fee currency exchange points.

This isn’t the fist time Virgin Atlantic has seized on new technology to help improve its travel experience. Recently the company trialed the use of Google Glass on airline employees who greeted first-class passengers when they arrived at the airport.

The use of iBeacons is being embraced by a number of different businesses — despite our concerns that they risk becoming “seamless spam machines” if implemented incorrectly. In January, a Dutch theme park became one of the first to use iBeacons to provide guests with visitor information. More recently a New York museum employed the technology to create a virtual landmine field. At Coachella, iBeacons were additionally used to provide proximity-specific information for attendees.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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