RFID is a relatively new technology and not too many industries have adapted to it, but aviation – as always and early adaptor of new IT trends – has already invented some good ways to use this very cheap and useful technology.
What is RFID?
RFID means radio frequency identification. As in case of all radio frequency communication, RFID also requires a transmitter and a receiver. The communication is 2-ways, so the transmitter can be receiver and the receiver can be transmitter as well. RFID can be used best when there are numerous objects or people you would like to monitor and keep track of their location. RFID’s effective radius is low, it means that the objects or poeple need to be quite close to each other. For example you can keep track of goods in a warehouse or you can keep track of baggages, mail or people at an airport. These functions can be served with by the same system. There needs to be a central station that sends out and receives signal to and from small radio frequency chips built in either loyalty cards or bag tags. These chips can be easily implanted into such small cards and they are cheap as well, so it is perfect for mass use.
What is it good for?
The most typical areas where RFID is used in the avation industry is baggage and cargo tracking. RFID bag tags are included in IATA’s Simplifying the Business programme. For more information please click here.
The main advantages of RFID baggage tracking are the following:
- you can easily organize loading
- if someone misses the plane it’s easy to find and offload the baggage
- if a baggage gets lost somewhere in the airport, you find it easily
- you can track the status of a certain baggage: checked in, security checked, loaded, offloaded etc
- you can easily find a certain baggage or cargo item in a warehouse or cargo base
Although it is not that commonly used and supported, we have already seen solutions for using RFID for CRM purposes. The following vision is not a vision at all. It was taken from real life.
- The passenger holds a loyalty card containing RFID chip
- Whenever he or she arrives at the airport, the chip gives radio signals to the central station that transmits the signal to the CRM or check-in system
- The DCS (departure control system) checks the passenger in and he or she receives an SMS saying “you are checked in to flight XY. Your gate will be C21.”
- If the passenger has a baggage, he or she can check it in at the bag drop off counter
- If the passenger’s loyalty card makes it possible, he or she can walk in to the business lounge, where no registration will be needed as the CRM system will recognize the customer by the RFID signal.
- If the passenger gets lost womewhere at the airport, there is no need for last calls, the gate agent can take a look at the monitor that shows where the passenger is and can send somebody to go and find him or her.
- When the passenger boards, there is no need for a boarding card, the central receiver will send the status update to the DCS.
Can you imagine such an ease at the airport procedures? It is very beneficial both for the ground handler and the passenger. I hope will meet this technology very soon at many airports. Best practices can be viewed at Amsterdam, Schipol Airport and Tokyo, Narita International Airport.