By Guérin Vong, Business Strategy Director at Sigfox
It is shocking to hear how lost baggage continues to be a huge issue for the travel industry, despite the proliferation of technology today. According to a recent report by SITA1, a whopping 22.7 million bags were misplaced in 2017. These aren’t just distant figures – the pains are real! My own luggage was misplaced on a recent holiday, and I don’t have to go into detail on how annoying it was to figure out where it went and to replace all the essentials in the meantime.
Although lost luggage hurts the travelers the most, airlines are also significantly impacted when mistakes are made. While it takes a lot of added time and resources for operators to get mishandled baggage back to passengers, they also have to contend with compensation and fines – which can rack up fast. Just recently in Singapore, a disgruntled baggage handler swapped the baggage tags of 286 pieces of luggage out of spite. While this inconvenienced 200 passengers greatly, it costs two carriers more than US$30,000 in compensation payments. In 2017 alone, lost baggage cost the global airline industry US$2.3 billion.
With the global air transport industry set to double in size by 20352, the pressure is on for airlines to deal with lost baggage efficiently. To help the industry tackle this issue, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) laid out strict guidelines such as Resolution 753 – which requires IATA airlines to track every item of baggage from the start to the end of the journey.
Since this resolution came into effect in 2017, an increasing number of airlines have invested in baggage-tracking technologies, such as RFID-based solutions, to improve accuracy and reliability of luggage handling. The proliferation of technology has made the creation of compliant solutions easy – yet, baggage is still being lost and millions continue to be spent on solving these issues. Why is this the case?
Improving accuracy of luggage tracking with today’s technologies can be done by introducing more ‘checkpoints’ at key stages of the journey, such as an RFID reader and system that scans bags on the way to the ground crew, or luggage that’s being handed over to another carrier on a passenger’s connecting flight. However, this added accuracy comes at a cost, as adding more ‘checkpoints’ requires investment in extremely expensive infrastructure updates.
In addition, existing applications of luggage tracking are, unfortunately, still limited and hindered by interoperability issues as well as inconsistent geolocation capabilities due to the limitation of networks and regulation on active radio signals.
It’s here where we and our friends at Amadeus, a global technology solutions provider for travel, saw an opportunity to leverage 0G technology to create a new, cost-effective solution called PinPoint. PinPoint aims at providing the air transportation industry with the best-in-class end-to-end tracking solutions. These are optimally designed, purpose-built trackers made to communicate efficiently through the Sigfox 0G global network, and easily managed through the PinPoint platform. “It’s only natural that travellers will want to track their luggage now that such technologies are available – there is a market for it. 60% of customers out there are willing to pay. The real question is – at what price?”, said Marion Mesnage, Head of Research, Innovation & Ecosystems, Amadeus.
We envision the future of accessible, affordable luggage tracking in PinPoint. Through a combination of low-cost, reusable, energy efficient tags placed on baggage and sensors installed at airports, airlines will be able to precisely track the location of every piece of luggage entrusted to them. This reduces loss from the ground up while ensuring that travellers only have to pay a reasonable fee for such important services.
Sigfox Bubble technology, a new beaconing solution that enables proximity detection anywhere from one meter to a few tens of meters, will also be used to enhance location accuracy even further. The Sigfox Bubble immediately identifies tags within range and shares information to the cloud, enabling airlines and airports to monitor luggage, track its location, and detect any movement anomalies at any step of the journey.
I believe that the beauty of 0G technology lies in its flexibility and wealth of use cases. While PinPoint can help airlines effectively reduce instances of lost baggage, it will also help airlines better track their ground assets. Such assets include spare-parts, landing gears, and unit load devices – essential equipment on the ground, key to get aeroplanes up in the sky quickly and efficiently.
0G-powered IoT devices will not only help airlines significantly reduce the loss of equipment, it will also enable them to collect usage data of each piece of equipment – giving decision-makers new opportunities to optimise usage and increase operational efficiency, while decreasing costs.
Such innovations are already making waves on the ground. Qantas, the flag carrier of Australia, in partnership with Digital Matter, Blackhawk IoT and Thinxtra, have implemented a large-scale deployment of asset tracking devices, such as the Oyster Sigfox, for managing Ground Support Equipment at their major airports across Australia.
Thousands of Qantas “below-the-wing” assets – including buses, baggage tugs, baggage barrows, vans, and belt loaders are now connected and tracked via cellular and Sigfox’s 0G networks. This has helped Qantas to uncover valuable, never-before-seen insights from tracking data – critical in maintaining airport security and safety, optimising maintenance plans, reducing costs, and in ensuring that on time performance standards are met.
These 0G-powered IoT devices are also becoming a go-to solution in Malaysia thanks to their affordability, ultra-low power consumption, and reliability. Budget carrier Air Asia recently worked with IoT partner and Sigfox Operator Xperanti to deploy Digital Matter’s Oyster Sigfox devices at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. This has helped the airline to optimise utilisation of non-powered assets and meet on-time performance requirements.
I believe that 0G solutions for travel are only the starting point of a new revolution in industry reliability and efficiency. While they will help airlines across the world drastically improve luggage tracking without passing costs on to passengers, the possibilities of what innovators can achieve with 0G technology are endless. In the future, Sigfox and Amadeus plan to work with new sectors, especially the hospitality industry, to offer end-to-end tracking solutions that cover the traveller from the moment they start of their journey at the airport, to their holiday accommodation, and back home.