If we’ve learned anything from Governor Christie’s Bridgegate, it’s that nothing gets people fired up quite like traffic and parking.
Although it’s a little late to help the embattled denizens of Fort Lee, beacons could levy numerable improvements for New York’s city drivers. Beacon’s micro-location capabilities could help steer drivers back to their cars in parking lots and garages (a competency for which Apple recently filed a patent), as well as facilitate payments for parking and gas. Many cities in the U.S. and abroad have had success with wide-scale deployment of parking sensors, and NYC has also experimented with small pilot studies in Lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn. Beacons could provide a more cost-effective alternative to embedded sensors, and provide the City the economic and operational efficiencies of smart parking meters and responsive pricing.
Beacons also have utility for drivers on the go. A City-wide beacon infrastructure could provide an effective platform to both crowdsource and deploy time- and location-sensitive information and updates about congestion, accidents, and road closures.
And beacons wouldn’t just improve the City for drivers. The MTA could use beacons for measurable improvements in transit service delivery; alerting straphangers to service changes and delays in real-time, and creating greater efficiencies in the payment of fares. So too, beacons need not be fixed to static locations. With beacons affixed to buses, for example, travel apps could register patrons as they board and exit, providing the MTA with a cost-effective, highly detailed picture of the current state of public transportation.
Citibike could also benefit from beacon technology: Already an advanced platform, its technology could be further enhanced with location-sensitive messaging, while beacon-afforded micro-positioning of patrons and cyclists could give organizers an even greater view to network demand.
Vice President Biden isn’t the only one who dreads flying in and out of New York. Indeed, the city’s airports are also obvious candidates for beacon-afforded improvements. Beacon deployment along the major transit routes to LaGuardia and JFK could bring passengers welcome peace of mind by communicating location-savvy wait times and delays, while beacon networks throughout the airports themselves could further alleviate stress for travelers by delivering location-sensitive content and messaging.
Some airline carriers are already wise to the technology. The Virgin carriers are experimenting with a grab-bag of smart technologies, including iBeacons, Google Glass and Sony’s Smartwatch, while American Airlines announced recently it’s installing beacon technology in five of its main airports. American will affix beacons to terminal ceilings to offer passengers accurate, real-time navigation throughout the airports, as well as let the airline know precisely which gate a customer is nearest to. American will also use the micro-location technology to deliver more context appropriate messages to help guide passengers through the airport. (The company says it has no plans to leverage beacons for commerce, but whether that remains the case will have to be seen.)
Next up: 7. Governance