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Long Lines at JFK? Airport Now Tracks Phones to Find Out

Waiting in long security-check lines is a necessity every air traveler must endure. But New York's JFK International Airport is trying to make it less frustrating -- by displaying accurate wait times that are calculated by tracking the movement of passengers' phones.

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The tracking system, called BlipTrack, is enabled by wireless beacons located in the airport that monitor passengers' phones anonymously as they move through the airport. The beacons detect devices that have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi turned on. As the devices move through the lines, the beacons record, encrypt and timestamp the phones' locations.

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The system uses that information to calculate accurate wait times from different places in the line, which are then displayed on screens for passengers. The 13 new screens at JFK are privately funded, said Denmark-based BlipSystems, which makes the beacons, in a press release. BlipSystems stressed the data collected are anonymous and securely stored.

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Last summer Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky National Airport became the first U.S. airport to install the system, and BlipTrack said the airport has been able to cut wait times by a third after making operational changes based on the data collected. BlipTrack is also in use in airports in Toronto, Dublin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dubai and other international locations.