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Airbus reveals iPhone-enabled 'smart bag' with RFID, GPS tracking

By David Flynn     Filed under: luggage, Airbus, checked baggage

Airbus is best known for aircraft like its A380 superjumbo and the next-generation A350 jetliner, but the company has cooked up something else to delight the traveller: a prototype 'smart' bag complete with a companion iPhone app and 'Find My Bag' function to track lost luggage.

Christened 'Bag2Go', the concept has been developed in partnership with mobile carrier T-Mobile and German luggage maker Rimowa.

An RFID chip inside the bag lets it work with the increasing number of automated airport and airline baggage-handling systems which can 'pair' smartchipped bagtags with your itinerary and frequent flyer number.

A barcode on the bag’s trip-specific label syncs it against your iPhone and can be passed on to your airline booking.

Each Bag2Go also relies on other location-based technologies such as GPS and a 2G-based cellular phone system to track the luggage along its route, including the  iPhone app's ‘Find My Bag’ feature to locate bags that have gone missing in action.

Another piece of travel-friendly trickery: the Bag2Go’s contains a built-in digital scale that’s wirelessly linked to the iPhone app.

Worried that you’re exceeding the checked luggage allowance? Hoist the bag by its handle and your iPhone will display its weight.

The bag is still in the earliest stages of development, so don’t go rushing out to buy one – but Airbus Chief Innovation Officer Yann Barbaux told Australian Business Traveller he expects the smart bag would cost only 20% more than its ‘dumb’ counterpart.

The bags would also be available to rent from airlines on a per-trip basis.

To seal the deal, Barbaux predicts an optional door-to-door courier service would pick up a packed Bag2Go from your home and deliver it to the airport to be checked in on your behalf.

“You rent the bag, it comes to you, you pack it and then the bag goes to the airport” Barbaux explains.

“There are companies which already do this for maybe €25 (A$35). We think with this system this could be done for €8 (A$11) and it would still be profitable.”

Passengers would enjoy the ‘travelling light’ experience of taking only their hand luggage to the airport and onto the flight, while airlines would have fewer passengers trying to cram oversized carry-on bags into the plane’s luggage bins.

At the other end of your journey the Bag2Go would be delivered straight to your hotel.

As appealing as that all sounds, Barbaux readily admits he can’t yet see how luggage fits into Airbus’ decidedly plane-centric business.

“The value for passengers is clear, but where is the added value for Airbus? That’s the point, we are really working on the business model today” Barbaux said.

“We have the idea but need to find ways to get revenue back. The airlines would run the scheme, so it might be by licencing.”

You can watch a promotional video for the Bag2Go concept at vimeo.com/67801379.

David Flynn is attending the Airbus Innovation Days 2013 event in Toulouse, France as a guest of Airbus.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we’re @AusBT

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 7/6/13 by Phil

It sounds fantastic.  I know it's only a prototype, but it'd be important to know how much such a piece of luggge would weigh.

1 on 7/6/13 by David

Hi Phil: I hoisted it up after the press conference and it was pretty lightweight, about the same as I'd expect from a similar-sized Rimowa bag (those are made from aluminium so they're not very heavy to begin with). But sorry, I've got no idea how many kilos it actually weighed.

1 on 7/6/13 by KG

You have been quoted by a Dutch news site on this article David!

1 on 8/6/13 by David

Ah, such fame! I can now retire and bask in adoration of Amsterdam's bag-toting travellers. That should be good for a drink or two!

2 on 7/6/13 by TheRealBabushka

Fantastic idea!

But would the bag have its own source of power to enable the "find my iPhone" function? Or are we looking at a glorified version of Q-Tag built into the bag that is read by airport systems, whereupon data is transmitted to your smart phone?

If its the latter then good luck trying to get airlines/airports to move! The former would be a better option but how do you sustain the power for the suitcase? Would you have a black box scenario where power is lost after X number of days?

3 on 9/6/13 by SILVINO

That's a good initiative. But it seems to me that it's a very limited application, as it will only work for people who have this 'smart bag' and only on airports and AIRBUS planes where there are RFID readers available (a very expensive investment for a limited purpose like this).  The use of an active electronic device inside a suitcase may cause EMI (ElectroMagnetic Interference) on planes not prepared to this feature. Has IATA approved this product?

Here in Brazil, my company is planning to develop a project to allow a complete solution for luggage losses. Also based on RFID, it  tracks the luggage since from the check-in up to the arrival on destiny airport.  It controls the luggage transportantion and alarms on all types of luggage losses, that are: luggage on a wrong plane, luggage on the wrong airport, luggage tooken by other passenger or luggage mistaken by its owner.

This solution uses a passive RFID inlay on the checkin label (that is, no EMI) and will work for all kind of luggages and packages on the airports that joined the project. We're now looking for partners and hope get it ready by the end of 2014.

4 on 12/6/13 by kcknacks

Hi David - did Airbus say when and where they are planning to launch this?

 

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