What are your thoughts on the state of self-service bag-drop as we move into 2018?

Borry Vrieling: Self-service bag-drop (SBD) has proved that it is here to stay. Many new installations are in full operation and more types of SBD machines have entered the market to fit different demands.

One new trend is dropping bags off-airport. Taiwan Scarabee, Taiwan Metro and Taoyuan have installed a bag-drop at the railway station 40km away from the airport. Drop the bags there and you will only see them again at your destination, making travelling through the airport easy.

With the further acceptance of home self-check-in, bag-drop installations can be less complex, and some of them even print only a tag. In combination with mobile technology, these systems can be placed anywhere – for example, in parking lots.

In the near future, combinations of biometrics and SBD will act on US TSA regulations where a positive match between the bag and the person needs to be made before the actual dropping. This is still a very manual process, but facial recognition will make it possible that this can be totally automated.

How can airports address the technological challenges of rising passenger numbers?

Self-service will make the process much faster, but this can only be achieved if every small detail is addressed and adapted to the passenger. If this is done, amazing numbers will be reported.

Dublin Airport’s bag-drop capacity has grown by 200%, while operation costs for the process were halved. Passengers are doubly satisfied, because they no longer have to stand in line, and it is fun to do things yourself.

To what extent is human interaction a necessary part of the process?

Human interaction will always be needed, but can now be more customised. When they don’t have to do routine IT tasks, agents can get on the floor, helping passengers that need assistance, like, large families, the elderly and people with odd baggage. Apart from that, they can be friendlier and more service-oriented.

How can self-service help airports reduce operational costs?

Ultimately, you need less staff. At Dublin Airport and Gatwick Airport, the whole operation runs on one agent and six or seven machines. You have more up-time, since machines do not require a day off, and you can put more machines on the same footprint; that means increased capacity with the same, or fewer, employees.

How will eezeetags help airports implement IATA Resolution 753?

Resolution 753 asks that once custody of a bag changes – for instance, from airline to ground-handler and back again – this action will be captured and the data will be shared among the parties involved.

The normal barcode will probably continue to be the dominant global digital reading method. Some operators are looking into RFID, where non-line-of-sight scanning is possible via radio waves and an electronic tag embedded in the bag-tag.

In my opinion, though, you should look into this only if it offers operational benefits besides the data capture, like easier and quicker loading of aircraft. eezeetags can be used as a hybrid tag, using barcodes and RFID.

You have more up-time, since machines do not require a day off, and you can put more machines on the same footprint; that means increased capacity with the same, or fewer, employees.

Can you update us on eezeetags’ project at JFK and its off-airport initiatives?

eezeetags will be used at JFK for Air-France KLM and more than 100,000 tags have been shipped for a proof-of-concept trial. At the moment, everybody is working very hard to get the installation up and running, and it’s expected to launch in early 2018.

Apart from the already mentioned Taiwan case, there will be more initiatives coming in 2018 to make use of new techniques. The most important thing to realise is that the further away from any knowledgeable airport staff the process starts, the easier it should be. That is where the tiny role of eezeetags comes in.