RFID for Airport Operations

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 @ 04:14 PM

Can RFID Help Make the Skies More Friendly?

AirlinesThe benefits of RFID for tool tracking, parts marking and manufacturing efficiencies have been documented by leading manufacturers of commercial jetliners including Airbus, Air France, Boeing and others.  In fact, with almost 70% commonality in parts suppliers, Airbus and Boeing have been working with the RFID vendor community, regulatory agencies and standards organizations for several years to help design RFID-driven systems and processes.

But what about the use of RFID for airport operations?  As a whole, the airline industry has incurred a cumulative loss during its 100-year history and, in an attempt to maximize profitability, has created complex and not so friendly pricing structures for a variety of services.  Isn’t there an opportunity for airlines and airports to benefit from the integration of RFID to streamline operations, reduce losses and provide customers with a better experience?

Consider the following…

Airline Baggage Tagging

Like tool tracking and parts marking, the benefits of using RFID to identify and process baggage have been proven.  According to research conducted by IDTechEX, in some cases where RFID baggage tracking has been deployed, the cost of handling bags has gone from $7 per bag to $4.  IDTechEX also reports that RFID baggage tagging can save the industry up to $760 million a year.  With this kind of savings, airlines would be able to stop charging bag fees – right? 

Security Gate Processing

Long lines and extended wait times at security gates are experiences most travelers dread.  But what if you are a pre-screened, frequent traveler who poses no security threat?  The combination of RFID-enabled travel cards and boarding-control hardware and software can speed up and simplify passenger identification and other security check point processes.  These “fast-pass” systems are similar to those used by U.S. Customs to simplify border passage for pre-approved travelers.  Wouldn’t shorter security lines make your flying experience a better one?

Asset Tracking & Scheduling

Wheelchairs, food trolleys and utility vehicles tend to be shared, are frequently lost or misplaced and need frequent maintenance.  And these are just a few of the great number of mobile assets within an airport.  By using RFID to identify and locate mobile assets across the vast airport landscape, various airport/airline departments could improve asset availability, reduce the time spent searching for misplaced items, optimize maintenance schedules and provide better customer service.  The next time you’re waiting on a wheelchair at the gate or experiencing a delay due to baggage transport, ask yourself – could RFID have helped?

Personalized Airport Services

Delivering a more personalized experience could go a long way for the frequent and first time flyer alike.  RFID-enabled displays can be used for customized information delivery and exchange – providing unique user experiences and giving airlines and retailers new ways to reach customers.  RFID-enabled kiosks and vending machines offer airport retailers the opportunity to speed transactions, extend loyalty programs and increase sales – while helping dad get back home with gifts his kids really enjoy (nope, the hotel soap just doesn’t cut it)!

Like in other markets, paybacks from RFID systems implemented in the air industry can be realized in a short period of time – particularly where new revenue streams are created.  Will we see a fully RFID-enabled airport within the next 10 years?  Let us know what you think below.

[Photo credit: Sindre Ellingsen/Alamy]

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Airlines, Baggage Tagging, Security

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