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Bag of Tricks

 

A new intelligent suitcase that enables passengers to control and monitor their luggage at the push of a button has been revealed by Airbus. The Bag2Go, a cross-industry innovation project from Airbus, Rimowa and T-Systems, is a digitally enabled bag that can weigh its own contents, communicate with an airport’s check-in and security, and is fully traceable, therefore making passengers’ journeys smoother.


With the tagline ‘Just pack and fly’, Bag2Go gives the passenger complete control of their bag and enables them to monitor it throughout its entire journey by using an app on their smartphone.


The suitcase is fitted with a radio and software module, and a display. The passenger inputs all the necessary flight data via their smartphone app. This information is then transmitted to the airline, which generates a barcode and sends this to the display of the unit on the suitcase. This barcode assigns the baggage a unique identifier linked to the passenger, and is used for checking in the baggage and forwarding it to its destination.


The barcode contains information such as the weight of the suitcase and who its owner is, along with all the flight details. This data means the suitcase can travel independently of its owner, right to the destination, even if flights are changed or cancelled at short notice, or a connecting flight is not made. The smart baggage solution also registers whether a suitcase was opened during its journey and informs the owner when and where this occurred.


T-Systems developed the information and telecommunications solution required globally for the Bag2Go, and operates the applications in its own data centres. The partners are planning to continue collaborating on additional airport and mobility solutions for customers of Airbus, Rimowa and T-Systems. This will enable airlines and logistics companies to offer their customers a baggage pick-up and drop-off service from home to their destination, such as a hotel.


Passenger Terminal World (a sister magazine to Aircraft Interiors International) spoke to Jan Reh, innovation cell manager at Airbus (left), about the technology behind the Bag2Go and how it could change the industry. One question that initially springs to mind is, what happens to the bag when power is lost?

 

“The bag has space for a large energy device and at the moment we are looking at aviation-approved devices that can last for at least two months,” he replies. “When the battery is running low, the passenger will receive a message letting them know that they need to recharge it.”


And if the bag does happen to lose power, then passengers don’t need to worry about their luggage being untraceable, because, according to Reh, the display doesn’t need energy to power it. “Even if you do experience a loss of power, the information on the screen does not disappear because it is powered by E-Ink technology.”

 

In the future, Airbus hopes that the displays will be in colour and will incorporate sponsorship and advertising. “I could easily imagine that an airline could send a welcome message to the bag’s screen before a flight, including a commercial and a personal hello to the passenger,” he says.


During the development of Bag2Go, the team wanted to ensure that airports and airlines didn’t need to make large investments in order for passengers to use it. “Baggage tracking in the past has been mainly done using RFID,” says Reh. “The main problem with this is that large investments are needed in the airport in order for it to work. Our goal was to bring something to the market that uses technology we already have in place. The Bag2Go has built-in 2G technology, which enables it to be used straight away.”


The bag is traceable throughout its entire journey apart from when it is on the aircraft, when it has to be switched off. “The mobile devices in the bags are managed by an IT secured platform from T-Systems, and they will give the impulse to the bag when it is loaded to the aircraft to switch it off. We are also working on ideas to have technology in-built in the aircraft so that it can talk with the bag, but this is really in the development stage at the moment.”


According to Reh, the cost of the bag will be “about 20% more than a normal piece of luggage”. However, the price is expected to come down when it penetrates the market on a larger scale. Airbus is also looking at developing rental programmes so that once-a-year travellers don’t have to invest. “It makes sense for frequent travellers to invest in the Bag2Go, but for people who will travel once a year or for families, we are already thinking about developing different business models and ideas around rental programmes.


“Looking to the future, I can really see a new opportunity for luggage manufacturers to offer bag fleet management services, and we are completely open to develop that together with them. At the moment you see Rimowa as the innovative company that really bought into the idea, but of course there are other brands in the market that could use the Bag2Go features, and we could license them out.”


The app for the bag will be free and will not only enable passengers to track their luggage, but it will also provide information on regulations concerning their flight. “We really want to help people when travelling to have a smooth flight experience, and understanding the different rules and regulations associated with each airline can often be stressful. The app will include information on the different baggage rules and the size and weight restrictions of all the airlines, enabling the passengers to understand the restrictions before they leave the house.” And the in-built weighing technology means passengers can make sure their bag does not exceed weight restrictions.


Reh says that in order for the Bag2Go to be really successful, the industry needs to develop standards associated with it: “When thinking about container ships, the only way they can carry so much payload from one harbour to the next is because they have managed to build a standard for the size of the containers. The aviation industry dreams of such an approach. If we could develop a standardised secured size for baggage, it would be much easier to handle all the bags. This depends on every passenger having the same standard bag and this is not easy to do, and our main focus at the moment is to make sure the bag is right.”


Currently the Bag2Go isn’t available to buy, but Reh says they are working on bringing it to market as soon as possible: “We cannot say a date yet, but we hope to do this in a few weeks. At the moment we are working on the innovation project with our partners and we want to visualise what we want to do and capture the opinions of the concept from the outside world.


“We want to engage with luggage manufacturers, airports and airlines to talk about this idea. We are not limited to specific companies or regions – we are talking about a global, worldwide standard that we want to develop.”


Airbus believes that the Bag2Go concept goes some way towards the development of a better-connected and sustainable world. And this is the reason the aircraft manufacturer has ventured into the luggage arena. “Our main business depends on the mobility of airline customers,” he says. “Therefore we need to work with them to ensure people and baggage can be moved smoothly and efficiently. This is why baggage is a very important component of our business and we are actively driving and innovating in this area for the benefit of the passengers.”


According to Reh, the Bag2Go concept is just a small component of a much bigger story. “With this bag we have an enabler to build completely new configurations for aircraft. We can really change the world when we educate and exchange ideas together. Even the passengers need to be aware that they can play a part, together with the aircraft industry, operators, airlines and airports. Looking forward, we do have something else that we want to bring to the market and we hope this will happen in a few months, so watch this space.”

 

To watch the system in action, click HERE.

 

20 June 2013

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