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Afilias Offering Free RFID Discovery Service

SITA is the first taker of Afilias' offer, and two of its member airports are set to test the service this summer as part of a baggage-handling trial.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
The Afilias Discovery Services, Zitkova predicts, will play a central role in core community services, enabling any party that might need to look up information linked to a specific tag to do so quickly and easily by logging onto the Web-based service. The other elements of the community services layer are an object naming service (ONS) registry, also hosted by Afilias, and an authentication service. The purpose of the ONS is to generate electronic product codes for each RFID tag commissioned. CertiPath, a provider of data authentication services to the aerospace and defense industries, uses a secure public key infrastructure communications bridge to authenticate parties sharing business information.

How much and what type of information is accessible through the Discovery Service, Zitkova explains, is up to the companies that own the data. In most cases, the parties—parts manufacturers, for instance—providing the information might chose to withhold sensitive business data, such as the cost of an RFID-tagged part. The participants, however, would allow a maintenance, repair and overhaul operations (MRO) facility that receives an airline part that must be inspected and either repaired or destroyed, to use the service to obtain vital data about the part's operational history—where and when it was made, how much maintenance it has received, a history of failures, and so forth.

This type of information is currently shared among SITA members using a messaging system that employs electronic data interchange (EDI) standards, but sometimes EDI transmissions fail. "Today, you [a SITA member company] would receive an EDI message saying that a part has been shipped to you," says Zitkova. "But what if you receive a part and no message? There is no systems-based lookup mechanism to find out who sent it and what was the desired destination. The [Discovery Services] lookup service provides a necessary coordination function to cover the gap."

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is coordinating the first deployment of a SITA Auto-ID Community Service Pilot, set to being this summer. The industry group works with airlines, airport authorities and other air transportation organizations to set data and safety standards, and to improve industry profitability and efficiency. The pilot involves two SITA member airports in the Asia-Pacific region. The goal of the project is both to test the effectiveness of RFID-enabled baggage tags for tracking passenger luggage moving between the two airports, and also to test the managed service and core community services for data sharing that are the foundation of the Auto-ID Community Service Pilot.

According to Zitkova, SITA will provide the pilot participants with reports on the status of tagged baggage, while also sending notifications whenever unexpected events occur. These alerts, she says, will enable baggage handlers to take quick action to remedy problems associated with misplaced or improperly handled bags.

In addition, Zitkova adds, SITA is close to confirming a number of similar pilots among other SITA member organizations.

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