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Automation of the Baggage Check-in Process Using RFID System in Airports

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Internet of things has become integrated in all aspects of life. Data and devices are interconnected to provide fast, efficient, and low-cost services. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless sensor network technology that is implemented with the Internet of Things (IoT) in many fields such as inventory management, product identification, healthcare administration, and government security. Large airports such as JFK experience a considerable number of customers traveling every year that creates a delay issue at the baggage check-in. In this paper, we try to mitigate the delay problem by automating the check-in process using self-service counters that are connected to the airport system and servers. All airport counters can be activated in a minute's notice to serve more customers and reduce the delay caused by the long waiting hours. We finally analyze our model with real-time data from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to measure the improvement of our automated model over the standard check-in model.
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Automation of the Baggage Check-in Process Using
RFID System in Airports
Rania Baashirah
Department of Computer Science & Engineering
University of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, CT, USA
rbaashir@my.bridgeport.edu
Khaled Elleithy
Department of Computer Science & Engineering
University of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, CT, USA
elleithy@bridgeport.edu
Abstract—Internet of things has become integrated in all aspects
of life. Data and devices are interconnected to provide fast,
efficient, and low-cost services. Radio Frequency Identification
(RFID) is a wireless sensor network technology that is
implemented with the Internet of Things (IoT) in many fields such
as inventory management, product identification, healthcare
administration, and government security. Large airports such as
JFK experience a considerable number of customers traveling
every year that creates a delay issue at the baggage check-in. In
this paper, we try to mitigate the delay problem by automating the
check-in process using self-service counters that are connected to
the airport system and servers. All airport counters can be
activated in a minute’s notice to serve more customers and reduce
the delay caused by the long waiting hours. We finally analyze our
model with real-time data from the Port Authority of New York &
New Jersey to measure the improvement of our automated model
over the standard check-in model.
Keywords-Airport; Baggage check-in; Internet of Things;
RFID; self-service; Delay
I. INTRODUCTION
Internet of Things (IoT) has become integrated in all aspects
of life. Data and devices are interconnected to provide fast,
efficient, and low-cost services. Radio Frequency Identification
(RFID) is a wireless sensor network technology that is
implemented with the internet of things in many fields such as
inventory management, product identification, healthcare
administration, and government security. This technology
revolution enables business enterprises and government
administration to use RFID technology for automation of their
systems to improve the work productivity and reduce financial
and labor cost.
Airline businesses experience a service problem of
passengers delay due to the travel process at the airports. This
issue is aggravated in the large international airports such as
John F. Kennedy International airport in New York City when
the airline companies deal with a considerable number of
passengers 24-hours a day. Airline companies have reduced the
passengers delay at the airport by introducing the self-service
check-in kiosk to generate the boarding passes and automated
passport control (APC) kiosks to expedite the customs entry
process. However, a very significant delay still arises from the
long line of passengers waiting to check-in their suitcases at the
baggage check-in counter that is administered by the airline
staff. Due to the labor and operating costs, airline companies
operate only few counters at the flight time which hurts the
passengers’ travel experience.
RFID has been employed in many areas to increase business
efficiency and reduce the operation cost. RFID has enormous
advantages over the standard barcode, although the basic
concept of RFID is similar to barcodes in identifying the items
[1]. RFID does not require physical contact with the objects,
allows scanning multiple and different types of barcodes using
one signal, has the ability to read and write on the tag multiple
times, and enables identifying objects in different climates such
as fog and snow, and packaging conditions such as ice,
perishable food, and liquids.
RFID network contains three major entities; a tag, reader,
and a server. The passive tag is a small chip that stores the
required data of the passenger, linked with the baggage
description and travel information. The reader is the scanning
device that retrieves the data stored in the tag. The server is the
database that stores and manage all the readers and the tags
information and communication. The communication between
the three entities is defined by the appropriate standard based on
the network used. Several airports adopt the EPC global GEN2
UHF that is characterized by IATA RP 1740c as IATA standard
for RFID identification [2].
Airline industries implemented RFID technology to resolve
the issue of the mishandled baggage [3]. International Air
Transport Association (IATA) has reported that baggage
mishandling costs the airline industry approximately $3 billion
in which 10% has resulted from the scanning failure [4]. The
problem of mishandled baggage was mitigated through
implementing RFID technology into the baggage. The airline
crew at the counter operates the check-in process to place the
RFID tag into the passenger’s luggage. Even though this practice
has increasingly reduced the issue of baggage mishandling and
the passengers’ delay at the baggage claim, the delay problem of
passengers waiting in line during the check-in is still escalating.
Due to the increasing number of flights at JFK airport and
the number of passengers traveling, more baggage needs to be
handled quickly and efficiently. According to the U.S. Customs
and Border Protection, the average waiting time for passengers
at the check-in counter is around 30 minutes. Passengers are
advised to arrive 3 hours in advance of their flight departure
which, creates a delay problem that affects the overall travel
experience when passengers wait a long time to be serviced.
Shehieb et al. [5] developed a smart system using RFID with
IoT to minimize the mishandled baggage at airports. The system
is interconnected with a mobile application to track the luggage
in real time. The airline crew members have to process the
baggage check-in. In this paper, we design a new methodology
of using the wireless sensor network with IoT that complements
the self-service kiosk to increase the check-in process efficiency
and decrease the service cost.
II. METHODOLOGY
The RFID system we are proposing in this paper will not
alter the business process at the airport, but it will reduce cost
and delay. We describe our system in three main categories.
A. Service Scenario
The service scenario is initiated when the passenger arrives
at the baggage check-in area as shown in Figure 1. The
automated system will generate the tag data based on the
information captured from the passenger.
Figure 1. Three Layered Architecture for Automated Self Check-in
1) A passenger with no checked luggage will head to the
available self-service kiosk to scan his passport and print
his boarding pass.
2) A passenger with luggage to check in will go to the self-
service check-in counters.
3) The RFID smart machine has a scanner, tag printer,
boarding pass printer, and camera for passenger
identification, and is linked to a scale attached to the
conveyor to transport the luggage.
4) The passenger is asked to place each luggage piece
independently on the scale next to the machine to start
the automated check-in process.
5) The passenger uses the smart machine to scan his
passport to generate the RFID data based on passport
number, passenger’s personal information, travel
information (departure, destination, seat, aircraft),
luggage weight and size, and payment terminal for
additional charges. The passenger also answers a few
questions about his baggage load. The camera takes a
final photo of the passenger on the top of RFID data for
further verification.
6) After the passenger’s data is captured, the machine
prints the RFID tag, places it on the baggage, and prints
the boarding pass for the passenger to keep with his
passport.
7) The baggage will move further through the conveyor
where the RFID reader on the conveyor scans the tags
and finally reach the sorting room to be later loaded on
the carriers.
B. Middleware
The middleware software will collect the data from the self-
service check-in counter to be managed in the enterprise servers.
The middleware software performs the following tasks [6]:
Collecting data
Sorting Data
Managing process
Managing devices
The proposed system will not alter the airport business
process. We can utilize the airport servers for RFID data
allocation for additional functions.
C. Hardware
Server: is used to implement the middleware and store the
data
Reader: used to scan the tags on the luggage.
Passive tag: low cost, easily attached, can be printed at the
counter and place on the luggage.
D. Architecture
In this section, we describe the main components of the self-
service check-in counter that create our design architecture.
Figure 2 shows a simple kiosk architecture according to IATA
Common-Use Self-Service (CUSS) specifications [7]. For the
simplicity of our implementation, we modified the architecture
to adapt our RFID system without compromising the main
components of the CUSS architecture.
Our CUSS architecture is described as follows:
Data is collected from the passport scanner to retrieve
the passenger information about his passport and travel
information.
The baggage scale collects the bag size, weight, and
contents.
Payment terminal collects the payment for any
additional piece, weight, or size charges.
The camera captures a photo of the passenger that is
converted to data pixel to be later used as a security
verification method during the baggage claim.
Self-Service Kiosk
Self-Service Check-in Counters Baggage Sort
The RFID tag printer and ticket printer are used to print
the RFID tag and boarding pass respectively.
Component manager sorts and monitors the information
transferred from the hardware devices and the RFID
reader in the conveyor.
Airline application is the software program defined by
the airline for specific operations.
Airline database server stores and manages the data
collected for all RFID tags and readers for every
passenger.
The application manager is a platform that manages
different airline applications at a single counter.
The system manager is the software that monitors and
controls the airline application and the counter hardware
and links the information collected from the hardware to
the airline application.
Finally, the airport system manager where the data are
utilized for baggage handling systems and airport
operations.
Figure 2. Three Layered Architecture for Automated Self Check-in
From the illustrated architecture in Figure 2, we point out
that the self-service kiosk and self-service check-in counter use
the same platforms and architecture with minor hardware
differences and can be activated at any time they are needed.
III. ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York
reported an increase in the number of passengers traveling in the
recent years. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
screened more than 3 million passengers and crew members
during July 2017 and 2.8 million during May 2018 which is set
to be the highest record in the agency among New York area
airports [8]. Passengers are advised to arrive two hours before
departure for domestic flights and three hours for international
flights, where the average cutoff time that the passengers spend
at the baggage check-in area is around 30 minutes and 45
minutes for domestic and international flights respectively that
could reach up to 60 minutes during busy days. Automating the
baggage check-in process could reduce the passengers’ delay
time and further the delay of their flights.
In our system analysis, we reflect the following
considerations in Figure 3:
We use data collected from The Port Authority
(PA) of NY & NJ traffic reports [9].
Based on our observation during a visit to JFK
airport, we estimate the number of active counters
for one flight is six counters, and the average cutoff
time of the check-in process for one passenger is 10
minutes.
Based on the number of passengers and the number
of flights in each month reported by the PA, we
computed the total time that a single flight takes to
complete the check-in process which is highlighted
in blue.
By applying the same considerations in our automated
system, we computed the time each passenger takes to complete
the check-in process. We added our computation results to the
same figure highlighted in orange to measure the improvement
of the automated check-in over the standard one.
Figure 3. Total Cutoff Time for Standard and Automated Check-in Process
of A Single Flight
The graphical measurement shows that the total cutoff time
of one flight is reduced by 49% which is considered a vast
improvement for the check-in service efficiency. Passengers’
delay to be serviced is also reduced when there are many active
counters to serve more passengers in a shorter time. The number
of employees needed is only two to administer the passengers
through the counters. The estimated market price of the RFID
tags placed on the baggage is $0.03, that can be added to the
baggage check-in fees.
IV. CONCLUSION
Internet of Things enables us to employ new technologies to
solve business concerns and provide better services. John F.
Kennedy Airport is one of the top three largest and busiest
airports, and incurs a large volume of flights during the year.
This leads to a large number of passengers who experience long
waiting hours at the check-in area before their departure.
Passengers are advised to arrive three hours ahead before their
international flight departure to check-in their luggage and arrive
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Total Cutoff Time O f Check-in (Min)
Standard Check-in Automated Check-in
Airline Application
Component Manager
Airline
Database
Server
Self Service Check-in Counter
Application
Manager
System
Manager
Airport System
Manager
Scale Payment
Terminal Camera Tag Printer
Passport
Scanner
Ticket
Printer
at the gates on time. Passengers’ delay is a major concern, and
needs the attention of the airport authorities. To mitigate this
issue, we implement IoT concept to automate the check-in
process as a self-service check-in counter where passengers use
the smart counter to check-in their luggage. The smart counter is
equipped with RFID tags that contain all the needed information
about the passenger, and camera to snap a photo of the passenger
for a verification. Unlike the standard check-in counters, all
counters in the automated check-in process are active to server
more passengers simultaneously and speed up the check-in
process. The model shows reduced waiting time through
graphical analysis. Automating the check-in process will affect
all the airline counters, which will have a significant impact at
the airport industry.
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... • Automated check-in [41], [43], [44]: Passengers can avoid long queues and procure their boarding passes by checking-in prior to their flights through their smartphones and completing the process through the Internet or by accessing smart kiosks found throughout the airport. Associated with these methods of checking-in is also another trend, automated bag drops where, by using one of the kiosks, passengers print the necessary barcode stickers, affix them to their own luggage and 8 VOLUME 4, 2016 FIGURE 2: Proposed smart airport architecture drop them off at appointed areas to be further processed by the airport's system. ...
... • Luggage tracking and handling [41], [44], [48], [50], [51]: One issue that contemporary airports have faced as a result of increased passenger flows and human error is VOLUME 4, 2016 FIGURE 3: Proposed Smart Airport Architecture Interior luggage misplacement and mishandling. One solution to this problem that has gained some traction in recent years is the application of RFID technology for tagging and tracking luggage. ...
... • RFID [44], [60], [61]: The first instance of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology appeared in 1945, and was intended as a spying tool developed by the Soviet Union [62]. RFID is a technology that has seen much use in short-range wireless communication systems. ...
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IATA 2018 annual report
IATA, "IATA 2018 annual report," International Air Transport Association, Sydney, Australia2018, Available: https://www.iata.org/publications/Documents/iata-annual-review-2018.pdf.
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