Solving Baggage Handling Concerns, IATA Resolution 753
March 2, 2017
Mishandled baggage is an ongoing problem in the airline industry. Finding solutions to this issue has become more of a need as more and more passengers are affected by lost and missing baggages.
Adopting barcode technology decreased the number of mishandled bags, but there were still millions of mishandling incidents and the technology only provides read rates as low as 60%.
Airports and carriers looked for new solutions and found Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) promising. Compared to the barcode read rates, RFID provides read rates as high as 99.8%. With this technology, the number of mishandled baggage is expected to further decrease.
Since the number of passengers traveling by air continually increase, carriers and airports are pressured to have better baggage tracking and handling systems. This made Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA) CEO Francesco Violante declare that the airline industry will focus on baggage tracking for the next three years. By 2018, International Air Transport Association (IATA) members will need to comply with IATA’s Resolution 753. This resolution will require airlines to keep track of each baggage through the entirety of its journey.
Pointwest has been exploring the concept of using RFID technology for an application to help airlines with the IATA guideline, and also aided a major US-based airline in developing their own proprietary app for that same purpose.
A Proof of Concept into RFID
In 2014, Pointwest initiated a Proof of Concept (PoC) Project to explore the capabilities of RFID technology. The team created an application that was compatible to a Windows Mobile Device, which was paired with an RFID reader via bluetooth. The features of the application were:
- Read the RFID information in the bag tag.
- Encode or write information on the RFID bag tag.
- Locate a single RFID bag tag within an area. By changing the signal strength of the RFID, the user can determine whether a certain bag tag is close or not.
- Gather all the RFID bag tag information in the aircraft and display it to the user as a table.
And the PoC project was successful.
A Live Baggage Handling Application
In 2015, Pointwest developed a similar application for a major airline, which is currently being used by the air carrier’s customers. The application is similar to the PoC with improvements based on learnings from the earlier project. After pilot testing at the airline’s chosen stations, it was deployed to all stations in 2016. The new and improved features of the deployed app in production are:
- The reading from the RFID information of the bag tag number is used to retrieve the passengers information from the database and display it to the user or aircraft load agent.
- Other than encoding or writing of information on the RFID tag, the database is updated with the baggage’s current location through GPS.
- The feature designed to locate bags is upgraded to be able to update the GPS location of a lost item. By using the GPS module built-into Windows Mobile Devices, users are able to get the bag’s coordinates and use it to update the “last seen” information in the database. This is integrated to all the baggage handling applications that Pointwest is supporting.
- All the RFID bag tag information are gathered and used to retrieve flight details such as destination, departure time, and bag status from the database. The improvement on this feature is that it can scan any area in the airport. Besides ‘local’, ‘unknown’, ’warning’, ’missed flight’, and ‘critical’ there is an additional bag status called ‘reroute’ for users to know whether the baggage needs to be rerouted.
The app is already being used by the airline’s employees along with six other baggage handling applications that were developed by Pointwest for this major airline.
With the application, it is easier for users to manage and to locate the passenger’s baggage. The user no longer needs to manually sort out the baggages since the app can easily find them. Returning the baggages to passengers with cancelled flights normally takes 10 to 20 minutes. The app reduces this into a one-minute process.
Pointwest is still in the process of optimizing the application, and the team learned to base the design on the technology; not on a specific device. Utilizing learnings from the PoC, where the team used 3 different RFID readers with their own libraries and communication protocols, the application’s design makes it possible to adapt to other RFID readers with very minimal impact on existing applications.
This new application is also a step for the airline’s compliance with IATA’s Resolution 753.
Baggage Tracking: Now and the Future
Despite carriers and airports being able to significantly decrease the mishandled baggage rate by adopting barcodes to their baggage handling and tracking systems, there is still pressure to further improve the numbers. With many latest trends in various industries leaning toward customer experience to raise their revenues, the demand to eradicate this nagging issue of mishandled baggages has never been stronger. Combined with IATA Resolution 753, air carriers will have a hard time ignoring this customer concern.
In the following years, more carriers and airports will adopt the RFID technology and even other technologies, such as beacons or sensor technologies. Beacon technology is similar to radio/TV broadcasting where a transmitter – such as Google’s open beacon format, Eddystone, and a receiver, e.g. the user’s smartphone, can communicate. If a lost bag contains the Eddystone it is possible to broadcast the information to nearby smartphones, which will be able to process the information and record where the broadcast of the bag was last seen.
In the future, more carriers and airlines will want to convert to these new technologies, and Pointwest will be there to guide them.
Founded in 2003 by pioneers of the Philippine Global Sourcing industry, Pointwest creates value for its list of satisfied clients — including top Fortune 100 and local companies — with world-class IT and BPM services backed by international-standards methodologies and innovative practices.