A while back, we blogged about airlines using RFID to track parts for inventory control. Now, it looks like more progress is being made in the airline industry around luggage tracking.
ThingMagic partner, Tagsys has developed an RFID-enabled luggage tag, the Permanent Bag Tag being used by Quantus Airways. The “Q Bag Tag,” containing an EPC Gen 2 passive RFID inlay is affixed to each bag. It’s also environment friendly. Each tag can be reused for an unlimited number of times. Here is how it works:
The RFID chip in the tag stores the details of several flights and can be reprogrammed at read points to use all over again on new flights.
After receiving a boarding pass, a passenger puts his RFID-tagged suitcase on the conveyor belt. A reader built into the conveyor reads the tag's unique ID number.
The traveler follows prompts on a touch screen connected to the RFID-enabled conveyor, indicating the type of baggage that he is checking in and how much it weighs.
The system activates the reusable Q Bag Tag and the conveyor belt takes the luggage into the handling system where it is sorted and screened via the RFID system.
Airline baggage handlers are able to see each bag's destination on a video monitor as the luggage passes an RFID reader.
The last two steps are probably the weakest link in a manual process that would inadvertently send your bags to Miami when you are going to Boston.
The Permanent Bag Tag can also work without an RFID reader. They can be used to display passenger and flight data on a built-in, electronic paper-based screen. Airports that do not have an RFID infrastructure in place, can still use the tags that will display the passenger's name and flight number on the screen for the baggage handlers to see. This isn’t as error free as the full RFID system can be because it still requires an element of manual processing, but it can certainly help make it more efficient.
ReadWriteWeb wrote about RFID-enabled luggage as an example of the Internet of Things back in 2009. Their story focused on the more personal, human element. More specifically, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Wouldn’t you choose an airline if the odds of your bags arriving in the same city at the same time, were significantly higher?
So, again we learn how RFID can be used to easily re-invent a manual process, making it more efficient and helping to control variable costs. We also see (again) that RFID goes beyond business benefits to the airline, and yields added perks for the consumers that turn their travel into a positive experience. If RFID can be the reason your vacation travel goes off without a hitch, it deserves a special place in our everyday lives.
If you happen to be flying this holiday season, safe travels to you. And if you are flying with an airline that doesn’t use RFID this holiday season, here are some tips for keeping your bags with you, or at least making them easier to retrieve. Good luck!