Written by Johnson YIM, Chief Executive Officer, E-Business Solutions Limited (EBSL)
Though often overlooked, safe and secure handling of checked baggage is crucial in a passenger’s journey. Passengers want assurance that their baggage, after being checked-in, will efficiently and safely reappear on the reclaim carousels at their destinations.
With the implementation of IATA Resolution 753 which warrants airlines to maintain accurate inventory of baggage, RFID – radio frequency identification – technology would aid in this part of the journey and ensure passenger satisfaction by enhancing security, reducing mishandling, and improving efficiency in the baggage handling process.
In fact, prior to airports adopting RFID technology to enhance operations, the science has for quite some time been deployed and broadly used in different industries, including facility management (e.g. equipment tracking), logistics, and healthcare (e.g. medicine anti-counterfeiting). As baggage handling is but another form of “logistics” activity, why not extend RFID capabilities to improve operations efficiency which ultimately benefit passengers?
Baggage marked with RFID-encoded tags provide for accurate identification of ownership and efficient transfer as they make their way through an airport’s baggage sortation system and onto the correct unit load devices (ULD) headed for the correct aircraft and flights.
Take Hong Kong International Airport for example, which processes over 100,000 bags per day. RFID-embedded baggage loading devices can identify, record and verify the correct baggage to be loaded onto aircraft and send out alerts in case of mismatches. The technology greatly enhances the efficiency and accuracy of baggage loading for departure flights. Thanks to the implementation of this technology and installation of over 400 RFID readers through the baggage sortation system, baggage identification accuracy has been uplifted to as much as 100% at selected sortation checkpoints.
Through further innovation incorporating RFID technology, baggage handlers’ work environment with also respect to health and safety stand to be enhanced. Robotic arms with RFID readers can be appended to baggage sortation system, improving both operational efficiency and occupational safety by reducing manual handling and heavy lifting during baggage loading.
Other advancements in the pipeline include robotics vision systems that enable effective screening of baggage on delivery belts, as well as auto RFID label affixing systems for transfer bags. The opportunities are limitless.
Lest you might think RFID technology is solely relevant to hardcore airport operations that are oblivious to passengers, its applications can indeed interface with passengers directly for more seamless travel experience. For example, when RFID is associated with smart luggage labels and smartphone apps, airports can send notifications when baggage is being delivered to reclaim carousels. Manufacturers are also developing dual RFID and barcode reader system which may eventually allow passengers to home-print their luggage labels for self check-in. All these innovations help reduce processing time at airline check-in counters and provide a more enjoyable pre-flight experience for passengers.
As the technology becomes increasingly mature, the next phase would be to integrate RFID solutions among airlines and airports to take baggage tracking to the next level, perhaps achieving complete transparency on the whereabouts of any checked baggage, worldwide. Lost baggage may then become a phenomenon of the past.
Mr. Johnson Yim is the CEO of the E-Business Solutions Limited (EBSL). EBSL is a Hong Kong-based software technology company specializes in IoT, RFID and Mobility solutions. Johnson is a veteran ICT specialist who has rich practical experience in technology innovation from idea generation, research & development to real-life implementation. Johnson has over 25 years of solid experience in product development, project management, technology transfer, and system development. He and his team have successfully applied IoT technology in a board spectrum of application areas including asset and facility management, mobile workforce management, supply chain management, cold chain management, fleet management, airport passenger baggage tracking, library management, corpse management, etc.
Johnson and his team have over 13 years of experience in applying RFID technology in baggage handling and developed a number of patents in RFID baggage handling. EBSL, under Johnson’s leadership, also obtained numerous awards including Hong Kong ICT Awards, Asia-Pacific ICT Awards and other international recognitions. EBSL is also named the Most Valuable Companies in Hong Kong Awards 2019 and 10 Fastest Growing IoT Solution Providers to Watch in 2019.