RFID a hit and miss for airlines


The airline SITA describes RFID as a disappointment, even as airlines adopt the technology.Radio frequency identification (RFID) has been a disappointment in the ongoing battle to curb baggage loss in the global airline industry, although the technology will find use elsewhere in the aviation world.

This is the view of Airline IT Society (SITA) CTO Jim Peters, who says “RFID has been around for a long time and has not reached critical mass within the industry”.

Lost or pilfered baggage remains a major industry headache, costing airlines billions of dollars a year, despite 98% of baggage arriving on time and at the right destination.

Peters says RFID would only result in a “20% improvement over the 98%, so it`s not enough”. He adds the resulting business case does not support the widespread adoption of the technology.

“It is an incremental cost. It is not a replacement. You can`t get rid of the bar code bag tag, because not all airlines will adopt RFID or do so at once.” Running two costly systems that do the same thing – namely track baggage – at the same time is not worth it, Peters adds.

However, “it is going to be used for different things, along with a related technology called near field communication, which is RFID inside your phone. This allows you to use a phone as a credit card or boarding pass,” Peters says.

“RFID is coming, but not in bag tagging.”

Wider application

Meanwhile, German flag carrier Lufthansa has adopted RFID in an area where Peters says it can make a difference: the handling of spare parts in the air maintenance organisation.

Lufthansa Technik has selected Motorola to provide RFID solutions for tracking aircraft components.

Attaching EPC UHF tags to documents that accompany the parts, Lufthansa Technik will be able to track their movement and deployment using handheld and stationary RFID readers. As a result, the company expects to reduce, or even eliminate, the need for manual data entry, thereby avoiding delivery errors and significantly accelerating the repair process.

“As a service provider, we operate in a competitive market and we need to turn around our repairs quickly, safely and efficiently to ensure we are providing our customers with the best possible experience,” says Lufthansa project head Martin Stempelmann.

“With the aid of the new RFID solution, we will be able to release aircraft back to our clients faster and without compromising safety."

Joe White, VP of RFID business development at Motorola`s Enterprise Mobility, says market dynamics are becoming more competitive and aviation companies are increasingly turning to innovative technologies to address new industry challenges.

“This implementation, at one of the world`s leading aviation companies, underlines the breadth of applicability for passive RFID technology across both the logistics and manufacturing industry sectors,” White says.

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