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NXP, Other Companies Preparing for Influx of RFID Baggage Technology Requests

The International Air Transport Association has recommended that all airline passenger bags be tagged with RFID by 2020; RFID companies expect the technology's resulting growth to reflect the retail industry's adoption.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 03, 2018

Following the release of an updated recommended practice (RP) from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that airline baggage tags come equipped with RFID functionality, technology firms are aligning themselves to offer the necessary UHF RFID-based products. NXP Semiconductors, Impinj, Alien Technology and Zebra Technologies are among those providing the RFID technology.

The RP document, known as "RP 1740C," along with IATA's "Resolution 753" for accurate baggage handling, endorses UHF tags for bags and readers for airports and airlines to automatically track the status and location of luggage. The updated recommendation, drafted and submitted for approval at this year's IATA Passenger Services Conference (PSC), aims for the inclusion of RFID inlays in all bag tags manufactured after January 2020 (see Airline Industry Embraces RFID Baggage Tracking).

IATA's mandate for RFID technology use is intended to further the downward trajectory of baggage mishandling rates for airlines worldwide. It is one step in more than a decade's worth of technology-based efforts by IATA, according to Andrew Price, the organization's head of global baggage operations.

As early as 2005, IATA was already looking into RFID (see IATA Approves UHF for Bag Tags). The group knew the technology would work, but also that intermediary steps would reduce baggage mishandling, such as bar-code scanning of each bag that is received from a passenger, loaded onto a plane and then sent to a dedicated carousel to be retrieved by passengers.

The 2005 RP, leveraging bar-code scanning, reduced mishandling rates from 18.87 mishandled bags per 1,000 to only 5.73 out of 1,000. That, Price says, was good news for everyone involved. "However, the rate of reduction is slowing," he states. "So we need RFID to continue the industry's improvements in baggage handling."

A challenge in implementing RFID has been one of logistics, however. Why would an airline invest in RFID reading infrastructure, he suggests, if the airports did not—and vice versa? The mandate, then, is intended to push adoption past the stage of waiting for other stakeholders to take the first step. "RFID is the lowest cost method for automatic baggage identification, and thus tracking," Price says, and IATA expects the technology to further increase the rate of properly handled baggage above the current 99.4 percent. "The move to RFID provides a new, reliable information foundation on which to build the processes of the future."

For technology providers, the challenge lies is providing the solutions that will be required to enable RFID's adoption. NXP, a maker of integrated circuits, including UHF RFID chips, has been aligning with air transportation stakeholders, says Susanne Schadler, the company's marketing manager of RAIN RFID logistics—not just airlines and airports, but those who will be working with the technology on a daily basis, such as baggage handlers and manufacturers of baggage-handling equipment.

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