Siemens Baggage 360 uses AI to provide airports with real-time flow forecasting

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Airports, airlines and ground handlers can now benefit from Siemens Logistics’ new version of its baggage handling and airport operations software Baggage 360.

The software provides real-time baggage flow forecasting, an interactive map of all airfield movements and a resource planning and simulation tool, thus enabling airport stakeholders too plan and allocate their fixed, mobile and human resources optimally.

Baggage 360 also leverages cloud technology to offer more than IoT functionalities and predictions driven by artificial intelligence (AI). It consists of a suite of applications to ensure seamless operations. Forecasting functions utilise advance AI and machine learning algorithms to anticipate expected baggage volumes for the next 24 hours and pinpoint potential bottlenecks or malfunctions. For example the resource planning tool can be used to change a flight’s make-up or laterals assignment to shorten baggage journey time.

“The new release of Baggage 360 is an important step toward a digital twin for baggage handling processes,” says Michael Reichle, CEO of Siemens Logistics. “The virtual representation of real-time operations helps airports to monitor and manage processes remotely and intuitively. Our pilot customers were impressed by how additional functionalities increased their operational efficiency.”

With airport stakeholders subject to high costs and time constraints, particularly following the global pandemic, the need to scale processes in line with passenger and baggage fluctuations is a challenge as the industry continues to recover.

As part of a pilot, Baggage 360 improved the average end-to-end travel times by nine minutes through smarter planning and allocation of laterals, the points at which ground handlers feed the baggage handling system with transfer bags. Furthermore, on a single day, Baggage 360 contributed to 22% fewer left-behind bags.

Baggage 360 is based on MindSphere, the open IoT operating systems from Siemens. It connects real-world processes and machines with the digital world of data analytics and apps. It can be implemented at any airport – regardless of size or the operating system in use. The apps are highly scalable, allowing businesses to access more features and services as they grow.

New baggage transfer solution enhances passenger journey

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Technology and services company, Air Black Box, has launched a new baggage transfer solution called ThruBag to help airlines and connection airports provide through baggage service for self-connecting passengers.

ThruBag enables self-connecting passengers to check their baggage to their final destination airport and avoid the hassle of rechecking luggage at connecting airports.

While traditional airport and airline baggage processes only work for legacy itineraries where all flights are on the same ticket, ThruBag replicates the convenience of through-checked interline baggage, even for those not travelling on legacy interline itineraries. The connecting-baggage solution is available to self-connecting passengers, as well as all kinds of airlines, including low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers. It is designed for easy deployment across airports and airlines alike, with no need to change underlying systems.

Until now, checked baggage has proven an obstacle for self-connecting passengers. According to OAG, 58% of air travellers are aware of options to self-connect their flight itineraries, but only 40% of those travellers have self-connected. They have had to reclaim their checked bags at their connecting airport and recheck them for their onward flight. Subsequently they have to go through the security checkpoint again and if flying internationally, must also clear customs and immigration.

“This is really a solution whose time has come, and that’s demonstrated by the level of interest we are seeing from airports and airlines worldwide who want to gain a competitive advantage using ThruBag,” said Patrick Edmond, Chief Commercial Officer of Air Black Box. “We’re confident that ThruBag will help our airport partners to position themselves as attractive connecting hubs, while airlines can increase passenger satisfaction and choice, and that means more revenue for both airports and airlines,” he added.

Siemens launches ‘first of its kind’ baggage sorting technology

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German technology powerhouse, Siemens Logistics has unveiled its new belt conveyor VarioBelt TilterPlus with an unparalleled tilting device for efficient transport of baggage at airports.

Offering a highly functional mechanism capable of conveying baggage straight ahead as well as to the left and the right with just one sorting device, the VarioBelt TilterPlus requires significantly less machines for a baggage handling system, which in turn means a smaller footprint.

“We support our customers with the most modern solutions for smooth business processes,” said Michael Reichle, CEO of Siemens Logistics. “VarioBelt TilterPlus is a groundbreaking product that makes baggage handling with belt conveyors even more flexible – for both regional airports and international hubs.”

By enabling airport operators to make use of modular expansion of their systems, Siemens’ new solution means airports can adapt their baggage handling system according to varying passenger volumes as required. In addition, VarioBelt TilterPlus offers different individual layout configurations. Connectivity solutions at 90, 45 and 0 degrees without implementing curves are possible to the connecting conveyor, which allows customers to make optimal use of their space.

And thanks to its modular structure, VarioBelt TilterPlus is easy to maintain. Components such as the drive drums, motors, and pulleys can be exchanged in a short amount of time and are compatible with the Siemens VarioBelt conveyor system. Airports that already employ this technology can use the spare parts they have on hand for VarioBelt TilterPlus.

New smart security trays set to revolutionise airport experience

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A London-based tech start-up UtterBerry has developed innovative technology with backing from the Department for Transport and the Home Office to revolutionise the airport experience by creating smart security trays.

UtterBerry is already in advanced talks with major UK airports to roll out the technology from next year, following keen interest from Northern European and Far Eastern countries for the smart trays. It began developing the technology in July 2020 as part of Future Aviation Security Solutions (FASS) programme – a joint initiative between the UK’s Department for Transport and the Home Office.

Using blockchain technology, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and miniaturising hardware for the trays, UtterBerry’s technology can provide a real-time interface to show an overview of the trays in use at a security channel, and basic information on passengers that are being checked. The interface also provides analysis of passenger throughput and contributing factors to delays, such as time of year, weather and flights times. The integration of the X-ray operatives interface, also means that passenger information can also be displayed on the baggage inspection monitors. The data collected from the smart tray system can also predict passenger numbers, meaning staffing levels can be managed more efficiently.

It works by using a passenger with a smart car, which stores their basic details and flight information, or alternatively, a mobile app can be used. A smart card reader on the tray then allows the passenger to link their belongings to the UtterBerry smart tray. When a passenger interacts with the device, an LED will indicate the state of the tray via red, blue and green signals. Power is transferred to the tray via wireless charging when stacked in a tray return system, enabling the UtterBerry smart trays to run for long durations without maintenance or downtime.

While improved baggage handling technology has already led to a 47% fall in airline baggage losses over the past decade to 24.8 million. According to UtterBerry, its development will lower that number even further by providing a link between passenger, tray and baggage during the security part of the experience.

“We have been thrilled to work on this innovative project, providing a revolutionary security enhancement solution within airports without hindering passenger experiences,” said UtterBerry Founder and CEO, Heba Bevan.

“The UtterBerry team worked hard to ensure we maintained time scales to deliver this project despite the issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We hope this new technology will be adopted within as many airports as possible.”

Acknowledging how the technology was developed with the help of government funding, he also underlined that “working with HM Government has ensured we have remained within the necessary guidelines to offer the safest, most streamlined solution. Their feedback and guidance has been of great value to UtterBerry, and for that we are very thankful.”

Aviation Minister, Robert Courts MP added: “It’s my ambition for the UK to be the best place in the world for aviation and technology, and improving passenger experiences when travelling will help us achieve this.

“UtterBerry’s work to enhance security trays, will not only increase security at the border but make airport checks quicker and easier for passengers.”

Are regional airports set for a post-pandemic surge of passengers?

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With domestic air travel in bigger markets such as the United States the first to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, regional airports are set to play an outsized role in the coming years, according to David Lavorel, CEO, SITA at Airports and Borders. The question is, he says, are they prepared for a surge of passengers?

As air travel ground to a halt in April last year, regional airports were as hard hit as their international counterparts with near-stagnant passenger and flight activity levels. But as we emerge from the crisis and operations normalize, these airports are expected to recover faster than their larger peers. And with that, they will once again face the same landside and airside capacity constraints they were experiencing in pre-COVID times but with the added challenge of managing new COVID-era health requirements.

Changing populations and remote workers

Several factors are at play in the rapid recovery for regional airports. Ramping up the pressure will be inward migration from the bigger cities due to the pandemic’s influence on population movement. With work less tied to the office, the lure of the big city is losing its appeal. For many remote workers, moving away from major urban areas becomes a distinct possibility as the everyday commute to the office fades into the distant past. A Gallup Poll early in the pandemic found nearly seven in 10 employees in the US to be working remotely all or part of the time. Similarly, Gensler Research Institute’s City Pulse Survey revealed a spike in popularity of second-tier cities, with one in four London and New York respondents considering moving to smaller, less populated areas.

Another factor is that with constantly changing entry and health requirements around the world, passengers will increasingly pivot from long-haul and business travel to domestic leisure travel, fueled by the pent-up demand from travelers seeking a break.

The future is about lower costs, efficiencies, and better ways of working

In the face of these profound changes, regional airports will need to adjust their strategies to address the post-pandemic environment. Like bigger airports, regional airports will need to consider a digital shift to cope with future capacity constraints.

Passenger and airline expectations

Passengers traveling from regional airports are also demanding the same digital experience and efficiencies they receive at international hubs. On top of that come greater airline expectations, route volatility, space constraints, staff multi-tasking, and a myriad more. Then, of course, as journeys become more digital, there’s the growing need for seamless interoperation across travel systems and technologies – not just among airports large and small, but also with other modes of transport.

The cloud: making the digital journey accessible

From our experience in digitizing the industry – before and during the pandemic – we see common issues facing highly cost-conscious regional airports, with a desire to be able to fund the types of smart digital ways of working found in larger airports.

The good news is that cloud technology makes the digital journey and cutting-edge IT affordable and accessible for regional airports. With leading passenger processing capabilities accessible via the cloud, airports can enable shared common-use approaches in the most cost-effective way, saving on infrastructure, space, and maintenance. Not only that, they’re well placed to embrace further capabilities as they choose, such as self-boarding, self-bag drop, off-airport processing, and more.

For example, available now, our own SITA Flex brings leading cloud-based passenger processing capabilities acting as the enabler of the digital passenger experience, based on safe and healthy low-touch, contactless and self-service journeys from check-in to boarding. Airlines get the ability to enable passengers to use their mobiles to have a near walk-through, touchless airport experience, while airport workforces can use mobile devices to coordinate and perform tasks efficiently.

It’s also important to have ready-to-go cloud-based (SaaS) airport management capabilities to help optimize resources while supporting collaborative processes and decision-making. Talking to our airport customers about their needs for operational flexibility, we have solutions providing digital ways to manage capacity challenges better, keeping a proactive eye on passenger flow and disruptions.

Best in class baggage and airport management IT

One of the biggest demands we see is for cost-effective access to best-in-class baggage and airport management systems. SITA recently launched a simple, scalable, and more affordable version of our leading baggage reconciliation system, SITA Bag Manager, that allows smaller airports to reduce the number of mishandled bags by up to 20% by automating the typically manual process of reconciliation. They can also shore up dwindling revenue; an airport that processes 4 million bags per year could generate approximately $100,000 over the course of five years by implementing SITA Bag Manager Lite.

Beyond that, we’re working with regional airports to introduce the most advanced flight information display systems along with simple operational messaging and network capabilities – as already used by hundreds of airports in all corners of the globe.

Let’s be prepared

What’s clear from our conversations with regional airports is that as they look to a new operating environment, they want to be prepared for the changes coming and a return to capacity. With more scalable technology available, they now have the ability to deliver the same experience to their airlines and passengers as they would as major hubs.

Eezeetags agrees collaboration with Sihl to expedite self-service check-in at airports

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With the aviation industry gearing up for a restart following the global pandemic, the demand for self-service solutions is greater than ever before.

Borry Vrieling, Founder and Managing Director of eezeetags says he is expecting “an increase in the demand for eezeetags on a level not previously seen,” following the global pandemic.

In line with this increased demand for self-service solutions eezeetags in collaboration with German label stock manufacturer Sihl group has agreed a future-oriented cooperation to expedite self-service check-in at airports.

eezeetags is already well-known throughout the airport and airline community for its top quality and easy to use baggage tags which are printed on PRESSURETAC, for which Sihl is the patent holder and producer. The self-adhesive labels don’t require silicone paper, making them environmentally-friendly as less waste material is produced and the base material is FSC-certified. The risk of accidents is also considerably reduced as no slippery silicone paper is left on the floor, while tags can be removed without leaving residue on luggage items.

Now, to meet the growing challenges in ensuring worldwide availability and consistency of their baggage tags, Sihl and eezeetags are growing the ‘eezeetags family’ with a global network of bag-tag manufacturers licensed to produce eezeetags under the eezeetags brand and specifications.

In Europe, Turkey and North Africa Security Label GmbH in Sarstedt Germany will service the market and in East Africa, India, the Indian subcontinent and GCC states, Kimoha Enterprises in Dubai will service the market. Meanwhile in North America George Schmitt & Co in Connecticut will manufacture the tags while Gateway Business Communications will handle sales.

Smiths Detection unveils new lithium battery detection for air cargo and checked baggage screening

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A leader in threat detection and security screening technologies, Smiths Detection, has launched a new lithium batteries algorithm for its dual-view air cargo and checked-baggage screening system – the HI-SCAN 10080 EDX-2is.

“We are continually striving to develop new technologies to ensure the safety of people globally,” said Richard Thompson, Global Director Aviation for Smiths Detection. “Harnessing the power of deep learning is crucial in further developing object recognition algorithms. This new technology has been developed by working with our customers to capture thousands of X-ray images to then be analysed by the new algorithm so it can learn to detect lithium batteries based on shape,” he explained.

Providing automatic detection of lithium batteries in all freight and baggage screened for explosives by the HI-SCAN 10090 EDX-2is, the algorithm reduces the burden on image analysts with very low false alarm rates.

With consumer demand for lithium batteries growing significantly, these batteries are the primary power source for personal and portable electronic devices. Classified as dangerous goods because of the potential for these batteries to ignite, lithium batteries pose a significant safety threat.

The lithium battery algorithm is part of Smiths Detection’s family of AI-algorithms, iCMORE, which Smiths Detection launched in July 2020, and which provides powerful automatic detection of dangerous goods and weapons across its conventional X-ray and EDS technologies using deep learning and classical material discrimination, increasing the safety of passengers, staff, goods and aircraft in a quick and efficient way.

“This algorithm will provide the powerful detection of lithium batteries while increasing efficiency and speed for users,” added Thompson.

SITA launches AI-enabled solution to address issue of lost items

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SITA has launched an artificial intelligence-enabled solution that address the million-dollar headache for airports and airlines of reuniting passengers with their lost property.

Every year passengers leave millions of items – including phones, wallets and bags – in airports and on aircraft. It’s an issue that costs the industry millions of dollars in repatriation costs and can cost up to $95 to manage and repatriate a lost item, including registration, handling inquiries, customer calls, storage and postage.

SITA’s new WorldTracer Lost and Found Property solution can cut costs by 90% and significantly reduces repatriation time. Leveraging the technology provider’s WorldTracer solution, which is already used in 2,200 airports by the majority of the world’s airlines, Lost and Found Property cuts the cost of repatriating lost items by 90%. It also dramatically speeds up the time taken to find and return found items, which 60% of these items returned within the first 48 hours.

Using cutting-edge technology such as computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing, WorldTracer Lost and Found Property searches a global database of images and descriptions to match the found item to a missing item report. Image recognition is used to identify details such as brand, material, and colour of the missing item. The airline or airport can then immediately notify the owner and return the item. Passengers have full visibility of the process through the WorldTracer portal no matter where in the world the item was lost, a feature that is expected to significantly improve passenger satisfaction.

“WorldTracer is a great example of how SITA continues to evolve its portfolio to meet the changing demands of the industry. For almost three decades WorldTracer has helped to successfully trace mishandled bags. Now, using new technology, we are adding further value by helping the industry be more efficient and reduce costs around lost items at a time when it is most needed,” said David Lavorel, CEO SITA at Airports and Borders.

Vanderlande collaborates with Western Sydney International’s ‘airport of the future’

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Vanderlande was recently awarded the contract to deliver a state-of-the-art baggage handling system (BHS) to Western Sydney International Airport (WSIA).

Currently under construction within the suburb of Badgery’s Creek, the new Western Sydney hub has been designed to meet Australia’s growing aviation needs and supplement the Kingsford Smith Airport which has reached capacity due to a legislative curfew and flight cap. The greenfield project is being completed in several phases and is expected to enter operational readiness and acceptance trials in late 2024, before opening to passenger and freight services in late 2026. Vanderlande is delivering a range of innovative solutions as part of the BHS package. Its ADAPTO BAGSTORE will be the core of the system, providing flexibility and scalability as well as high storage density and 100% redundancy.

ADAPTO BAGSTORE also gives WSIA the ability to ‘batch build’ baggage ensuring efficient use of resources and to deploy the emerging service of “reclaim on demand” due to its ability to store inbound bags. Vanderlande’s high-speed TUBTRAX individual carrier system (ICS) works in harmony with ADAPTO and allows in-tub screening. In addition, all Vanderlande solutions are integrated with its controls platform, VIBES – a software solution that covers the complete baggage process, and interfaces directly with airport and airline IT systems to provide a holistic view.

Using FLEET Bag Av-technology, speed loaders for efficient ULD loading and a central make-up area for economic use of resources, the Vanderlande system will also include out-of-gauge baggage handling. It will also link to a sub-system in which couriers will be able to drop off bags enabling WSIA to proivde the option of remote check-in and bag drop services. Self-bag drop capability will also be integrated into the system.

Commenting on the opportunity to collaborate with WSIA to help deliver their inspirational vision that is the centrepiece of Sydney’s third Central Business District, Shaun Roper, Vanderlande’s Managing Director Airports said: “We are confident that our partnership approach, strong local team and global network of knowledge coupled with an extensive use of local trades and services will together bring value and benefit to WSIA and the local community. With this, alongside our innovative baggage solutions, Western Sydney Airport can be confident that together we will deliver a world-class experience for every passenger.”

Vanderlande’s Executive VP Airport and Parcel Solutions added, “This is not only about technology, but also understanding how our solutions can make WSIA a great place to work and support the wider Sydney community.”

Header image: On the left Shaun Roper, Managing Director Airports, Vanderlande, and on the right Simon Hickey, CEO Western Sydney Airport
Smiths Detection

Hamad International Airport deploys Smiths Detection latest checkpoint screening technoloty

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Smiths Detection

Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Qatar is first in the region to deploy Smiths Detection’s HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX. The latest checkpoint screening technology offers advanced screening of carry-on baggage at security checkpoints using Computed Tomography (CT) X-ray. The technology enables airport operators to deliver the highest levels of security internationally and optimises checkpoint performance by expediting the screening processes helping improve the overall passenger experience.

Critically this investment in screening technology will enable passengers to keep electronic devices and liquids in their hand baggage when going through the security checkpoint procedure.

“At HIA, we are always championing the adoption of cutting-edge technologies to ensure operational excellence and deliver a seamless passenger experience,” said Saeed Yousef Al-Sulaiti, VP Security at HIA. “Smiths Detection has a reputation for providing market leading solutions with world-renowned standards for quality. We are proud to be the first airport in the region to introduce the latest CT screening technology available in the industry. HIA is committed to remaining at the forefront of technological advancements to continuously enhance the passenger experience while improving operational efficiency.”

To help safeguard the health and wellbeing of passengers and staff  the new systems will be partnered with fully automated tray return systems integrated with automated UV-C emitting modules that will automatically disinfect the trays before passengers handle them to further safeguard the health and safety of all HIA passengers.

New passenger screening technology has also been selected to replace the previous equipment, with HIA introducing Rohde & Schwarz Millimeter-wave body scanners and CEIA shoe scanners, reducing the need for pat-down search and shoe removal.

The new screening systems are in line with HIA’s mission to optimise various airport operations with smart solutions to cope with the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and are at the heart of the airport’s digital transformation.