Seeking to find the fastest way to the Olympics? Now travelers going to Brazil for the worldwide competitions can get directions via beacons.

Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International Airport recently launched a mobile app and beacons to aid the travelers headed to the city for the Summer Olympic Games, which run Aug. 5-21.

Beacons are small pieces of hardware that can determine a traveler’s location via Bluetooth. In order for beacons to work, a traveler has to download the RIOgaleão Airport app and turn on the Bluetooth feature on her smartphone.

The RIOgaleão Airport deployed 3,000 beacons across its 100,000-square-meter building, says Alexandre Villeroy, chief information officer at RIOgaleão Airport. The beacons work in conjunction with the mobile app to give travelers turn-by-turn directions around the airport.

A traveler can pull up the map in the airport app and type in a destination, such as Starbucks, or his flight number, and the app will show the traveler on the map the best path to take to get to his destination and list out directions.


Typically, 45,000 travelers navigate through the RIOgaleão Airport each day. During the Olympics, the airport expects that number to double, to 90,000 passengers, Villeroy says.

Besides indoor navigation, other features in the app include the ability to pay for airport parking, track flight status, a place to provide airport feedback, and integration with Google maps to look up how long it will take to get to the airport and then receive directions.

While the Olympics spurred the airport to deploy this technology, RIOgaleão plans to keep the system in place afterward as well, Villeroy says.

After the summer games, the airport plans to launch an app update that will integrate with other apps, such as airline apps. This way, the airport can offer a more connected experience for the traveler, Villeroy says.  For example, travelers could receive their mobile boarding passes via the airport app. The airport is also hoping to add a PayPal button in the app for a quick checkout, as right now consumers have to store a credit card in the app if they want to use it to pay for parking.

“The idea is to find functionality to make the application something you can keep on your phone, not just something you will download and use one time,” he says.


Eventually, the airport would like to send smartphone alerts to travelers via the app as well. This will help build a relationship with passengers, which is one of the airport’s goals, Villeroy says.

The airport does not have any use goals for the app, Villeroy says. Since few airports have deployed apps and beacons, he doesn’t have a benchmark for success, he says.

The app is available in Portuguese, the dominant language in Rio de Janerio, and English, which many international travelers speak, Villeroy says. RIOgaleão is letting travelers know about the app via social media, local events and in-airport signs, he says.

RIOgaleão Airport started working on the app last December and it installed the beacons about two months ago, Villeroy says. The airport used mobile technology vendor Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, and consultancy firm Accenture Digital for this deployment.

He would not say how much the airport invested in the app and beacon deployment. For comparison, Orlando International Airport launched an app and deployed 1,200 beacons with Aruba at a cost of about $500,000. Villeroy did say that over the next 24 years, the airport plans to invest $5.2 billion in the airport, $2 billion of which will be invested by the time of the Olympic Games for construction, technology and infrastructure upgrades.