One of the most stressful moments of any holiday occurs at check-in when you often wonder if your bag will be there to meet you the other end. Some 3,000 pieces of luggage go astray around the world every hour, the equivalent to 26 million lost or misplaced bags per year. But lost luggage nightmares could very soon be a thing of the past thanks to a joint initiative between Airbus, the telecommunication company T-Systems, and luggage manufacturer Rimowa.
They’ve come up with a special piece of luggage equipped with the ‘Bag2go’ system. It links up to your smartphone or tablet so you can track your bag in real time.
Airbus’ Innovation Manager Jan Reh described the design brief: “It was very important for us to come up with a solution that was very easy to use for the passengers. When you see this, this is a conventional bag tag and this will be something of the past. What we are looking for is to get this on an electronic display so that this information can be displayed on the case and you can control this with your smartphone, so you can look to see where your bag is.”
The idea is radical, the technology standard. A sim card is installed inside the bag. Two sensors weigh the bag and display an electronic tag. The bag then communicates directly with your smartphone as you punch in the flight details. A smartphone app uses GPS to track the bag and even lets you know if the bag is opened or manipulated.
Jan Reh says, “We hope that we can improve the overall baggage handling processes today with bag2go and this is also the aim. We are working together with the industry to see how we can solve and help the baggage handling and bag2go is one puzzle piece in this overall game to make baggage more controllable for airlines and to give passengers a better travel experience.”
It means that in the hotel lobby for example, that at the same time that you check out, you can check your bags in rather than wait to reach the airport to do it. From that moment on you know exactly where your bag is.
Torsten Chudobba, from T-Systems, says it’s less about groundbreaking systems and more about using what’s available efficiently: “We have not developed something new. We just brought existing technologies together and optimised this for tracking and tracing. It’s a combination of the new technology and ease of use and there is no further investment from the airport or wherever.”
The system is being tested throughout 2014 and airlines are very keen to participate because each lost item of luggage costs them around 73 euros to retrieve and return to its owner. IATA, which represents the airline industry, says this is close to 1.8 billion euros in lost revenue.
IATA representative Andrew Price is confident that the system will gain traction: “This new technology is a fantastic enabler that will help the business transform itself so that not only will fewer bags be mishandled but newer and more innovative ways of delivering those bags will be found. These technologies may seem like they are new today but within five years they will be absolutely commonplace.”
Bags often go through 14 different touch points between drop off and pick up on arrival. Bag2go can’t always prevent luggage heading to the wrong destination – but the system will be able to alert airlines when your bag has taken a mis-turn before it’s taken onto the wrong aircraft. And of course if it does end up at a different city from you, there is at least the peace of mind of knowing exactly where it is, which will greatly speed up its return to you.
Bag2Go is still in the prototype phase and Airbus expects it to cost around 20 per cent more than a conventional suitcase.