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RFID to Revolutionize Airline Baggage Tracking

RFID technology to track baggage has been on the aviation industry’s radar screen for years. However, never before has industry wide adoption been so close. Earlier this year at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) its members agreed to consider expanding IATA’s existing baggage tag standards to include RFID inlays to enable real-time tracking of baggage.


The global trade association’s members will vote to pass a resolution next year committing the industry to the global adoption of RFID inlays. Signs are very positive, consensus will be reached to begin the technology rollout globally in 2020.

There will be a big transition ahead as the entire industry drives towards this goal including some challenges. Smartrac is well positioned to offer support and guidance to the partner ecosystem throughout the process.


Airline baggage tracking offers plenty of challenges that are documented in case studies IATA has gathered over the last few years. Smartrac is fully committed to supporting all suppliers of baggage tags, and their migration to supplying RFID-enabled tags by our Wings tag and our converting expertise.


In terms of the technical capabilities of the tags needed for the comprehensive new tracking systems, we offer a very convincing answer with our new Wings inlay. Hence, we expect the new UHF (RAIN RFID) product to play a major role when the technology rollout starts in 2020,” says Stephen Howells, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Smartrac.


IATA Compliant, Auburn University RFID Lab Approved

IATA has also updated the RFID Standards, namely Recommended Practice 1740C, working with Auburn University to develop a set of performance criteria for tags and inlays.


Smartrac’s new Wings tag is tailored to airline baggage tracking requirements. In fact, it is more than that: Wings is one of the smallest UHF tags for luggage tagging in the market and one of the very few that are already approved under Auburn University RFID Lab’s category U. This category is related to asset tracking in aviation: Auburn University measures the tag performance on materials like cardboard, plastic or rubber and, as of now, lists only four inlays by three manufacturers as approved.


Andrew Price, Head, Global Baggage Operations at IATA explains what the initiative is and what the intended outcomes are. “The RFID supply chain is ready to provide baggage tags for our industry, and over the next few years IATA will be working with all stakeholders to drive use of the technology to maximize the benefits it offers”.


Wings Tag Facts & Figures

Smartrac’s Wings tag is equipped with NXP’s UCODE 8 IC, which comes with 128-bit EPC memory and features a unique 96-bit tag identifier (TID), a pre-serialized EPC and an auto adjust function for automated tag performance optimization. With its leading-edge RF performance for any given form factor, UCODE 8/8m enables long read distances and rapid inventory of dense RFID tag populations.


Wings has an aluminum antenna measuring 30 x 72 mm / 1.18 x 2.84 inches and operates in the UHF band (860 – 960 MHz). The tag’s structure combines aluminum with a PET substrate and paper layer resulting in a flexible and robust tag that can be applied to a wide range of surfaces and shapes, while surviving the rigors of international travel and the harsh environment of an unheated aircraft hold.


Perfectly tuned to one another, IC and antenna jointly enable a very high read sensitivity in two directions. Taken together, Wings’ features provide a reliable, high-performance solution not only for baggage tracking, but also for a wide range of apparel and supply chain management applications.


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