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DFW Airport to gather data on security lines from passenger cellphones

DFW Airport plans to use cell phones using free Wi-Fi to anonymously track passengers as they move through the terminal.
DFW Airport plans to use cell phones using free Wi-Fi to anonymously track passengers as they move through the terminal. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

To get a better handle on how long people are waiting in security lines, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is teaming up with AT&T to gather data through passenger cellphones.

AT&T, which provides free Wi-Fi at DFW Airport, can anonymously track phones that are connected to the wireless network, determining where a traveler is within the airport. That location information can then be used by airport staff to find out how many travelers are in a given location and how long they stay there.

“This is exhaust from their system,” said Chris Poinsatte, the airport’s chief financial officer, describing the technology at an airport board committee meeting Tuesday. “It allows [AT&T] to track the movement of individuals without knowing who they are.”

Security lines at DFW and other airports across the country have grown as the Transportation Security Administration has dealt with budget cuts and staffing issues. Wait times have reached over an hour during peak travel times at DFW’s Terminal D. Earlier this month, American Airlines said it would spend $4 million on line management staff to help guide travelers through checkpoints during the summer.

“We can use the data to send it to our folks, to TSA, to American Airlines,” Poinsatte said. “We will have real-time information on the queue times.”

With the data, TSA could move security agents more quickly from a less-busy checkpoint to one that is crowded, Poinsatte said. The information can also be used to determine traffic patterns throughout the terminals.

Eventually, the airport wants to make the information it gathers on wait times at security checkpoints available to the public on its mobile app, Poinsatte said.

If the board approves the $600,000 contract at its meeting Thursday, the airport could have the real-time data in about four weeks.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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