Airlines have been given a firm mandate from the International Air Transport Association: Start using technology to handle baggage logistics in a more efficient way. This official call to action is dubbed Resolution 753, and it suggests that airlines start using radio-frequency identification — or RFID — technology to enable customers to follow their luggage in real time.
This is the kind of upgrade that will define the next era of commercial aviation. Having said that, while this solution can help airports become “smarter,” implementing R753-compliant solutions can uncover larger issues with digital infrastructure.
What’s Standing Between Airlines and Compliance?
The problem for airlines is this: They rely on airports to transform their own digital capacity before they can use tech like RFID in a productive, creative way. However, airports that haven’t received the same mandate are often slow to invest in technology they haven’t seen in action.
Many airports operate under a “common use” policy, which dictates that they’ll use the same technology across all airlines. If a single airline is desperate to innovate with RFID, it will likely encounter pushback unless the airport is willing to make an exception or the other airlines get on board.
And whether the airport operates under common use or not, technology is still moving forward. Soon, airport counters and kiosks will be able to create an RFID tag with a bar code on it without encoding the RFID chip. The encoding will happen later at the injection point (similar to the solutions provided by Sick).
Instead, many airports still rely on bar code tags. It’s an admittedly cheaper alternative, but it requires a lot of maintenance, cleaning, and calibration to keep readings accurate. Additionally, bar codes are generally printed on paper or plastic, which is highly susceptible to damage. The move to bar code reading and scanning occurred in the ‘80s and ‘90s when the solution was still state of the art, but we’re certainly on the cusp of moving toward better, more effective technologies.
RFID reads provide much more reliable information, but without sufficient airport adoption, their coverage can only extend so far. For instance, once a bag changes hands to a noncompliant airline or conveyer belt, trouble can arise. However, bar codes and RFID are complementary, and combining them provides a clearer path toward complete RFID adoption.
Shifting Digital Infrastructure to Make Way for R753
RFID implementation is a small piece of the larger, more lucrative puzzle of digital transformation in airports. Successful adoption isn’t so much about RFID as it is about data in general: the use of data across not just baggage logistics, but also ground transportation, check-in, flight extras, and all parts of the flying experience.
Airports must consider how to integrate data into the entire journey. The “reading” technology associated with RFID creates more accurate data, and the cost-effectiveness provides an opportunity to increase read points regarding tracking, predictive management, and timely alerts to improve operations. This enhanced data collection has potential across many different touchpoints, whether that’s with the customer, airline, airport, or another party outside the airport environment.
Once you’ve attached data to customers’ journeys, for instance, you can look at each journey in terms of groups and themes. You can spot peak and slow times and identify common hiccups, allowing you to subtly adjust processes and procedures to ensure bags and passengers arrive and depart in a more efficient, predictable manner.
It’s about educating and empowering airports — finding ways to work with them to implement new technologies and charting a road map to collaborative digital transformation.
The Bigger Picture of Digital Adoption
If airports can start thinking about digital change through a broader lens, R753 could actually become an opportunity instead of a hindrance.
For example, Delta has long been a leader of new tech adoption, and RFID is no exception. In fact, it was Delta’s RFID adoption that reportedly catalyzed the IATA’s mandate. The regulatory body saw how the tech improved logistics for Delta and its flyers, so it standardized the method as an industry best practice. When customers use Delta’s mobile app, for instance, they can receive helpful notifications regarding their baggage’s status throughout their journey. This gives customers the ability to plan their time more effectively.
This new control over customer experience will open up a massive opportunity for airports and airlines to evolve into an exciting new phase — and better baggage tracking is just the beginning. In fact, smart airports are primed to unlock a world of innovation and seamlessness, from passenger drop-off curbs to boarding gates. Reach out to Wipro today to ensure you’re ahead of the competition.