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NEWS Last modified on December 20, 2016

LAX uses bluetooth beacon technology to improve the efficiency of wheelchair operations

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) claims to have become the first airport on the planet to use Bluetooth beacon technology to track and despatch wheelchairs for passengers in need of assistance.

Like other airports LAX is no stranger to using Bluetooth-enabled beacon technology to promote its retail and F&B offerings to passengers by sending tailored sales pitches to traveller's smartphones.

But LAX, in partnership with Inglewood-based Aero Port Services, Inc (APS), is believed to have become the only airport in the world to apply this emerging technology for tracking and dispatching wheelchair service.  

And operator, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), reveals that the results are improvements in response times for travellers requesting wheelchairs, and improved communications and operational efficiency. 

Aero Port Services recently introduced its proprietary Wheelchair Assistance Innovative Solutions Tracking System (WAIS-Track) throughout LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) to address the growing number of wheelchair requests from the 38 foreign air carriers operating in TBIT.  
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Last year LAX received over 970,000 requests for wheelchairs across all terminals, of which 275,000 (or 28%) were at TBIT.

The figure is expected to exceed one million in 2016 as LAX enjoys record breaking passenger numbers.

APS says it is currently receiving an average of 900 requests daily, putting it on track to surpass 325,000 requests this year.

“We’re excited to see the implementation of WAIS-Track in the Tom Bradley International Terminal,” enthuses Larry Rolon, LAWA's Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator.  

“Demand for wheelchair service has risen over 14% in the past year at TBIT, which has the highest number of wheelchair requests at LAX.  

"This can result in delays for passengers waiting for assistance. WAIS-Track will be a big help in managing wheelchair locations and personnel assignments, which should help reduce wait times.”

WAIS-Track uses Bluetooth-enabled beacons deployed throughout TBIT that provide way-finding information to APS’ proprietary smartphone app.  

As wheelchair assistants ferry travellers throughout the terminal, their location data is read by a beacon and transmitted through a cellular network to APS’ computer servers, allowing real-time location tracking. 

This connection eliminates the previous walkie-talkie and cellphone calls by dispatchers asking wheelchair assistants for their locations, their availability for another assignment, and how far they are from the central dispatch location to receive a new assignment.  

New assignments can be transmitted to available wheelchair assistants located nearest to the requesting airline staffer.    

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