Heathrow tests RFID tags for trolleys

19 June 2018
Some of the trolleys in the Heathrow trial, equipped with RFID sensors from Vero Solutions. Source: Vero Solutions

Heathrow has completed a bag trolley proof-of-concept trial involving RFID tags, as the technology continues to make inroads into the airport sector.

Vero Solutions applied inexpensive passive RFID tags to trolleys at Heathrow, and then installed readers at chokepoints such as doorways, racking areas, baggage reclaim, and entrances to car parks.

Vero Solutions director Tim Young claimed the exercise was successful. “It has given them [Heathrow] lots of good data on their trolleys and we are now awaiting a possible rollout of the system,” he told Jane’s during the British–Irish Airports EXPO in London on 12–13 June.

Each trolley was individually identified and its usage tracked. Readers indicated where a trolley was last seen, allowing deployment to be vastly improved. Staff overseeing the system could email colleagues in the field to advise which areas were running short of trolleys.

“Our aim was to improve availability, and also to help build up statistics on where trolleys go and how long they spend undergoing maintenance,” said Declan Begley, Vero Solutions business development manager. “The next logical step is to see how long a trolley remains in service after a repair, and to determine whether it is better to repair a trolley based on how much usage it subsequently gives, or simply throw it away and buy another.”

By building up statistical data over time, an airport can determine what the adequate size of its trolley fleet should be by optimising trolley usage. Previously, said Young, the only method of monitoring trolleys was a spot count; a more systematic method with RFID tags would lead to cost savings, as well as improvements to customer experience by ensuring that sufficient trolleys are available where they are needed.

Airport baggage-handling is moving towards greater adoption of RFID tags, especially in view of IATA Resolution 753, which demands a full tracking capability throughout the process.

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