RFID in Aviation Industry

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The airplane is one of the modern ways of transporting goods from one place to another and passengers from one destination to another. Therefore, through airplane goods and passengers can move all over the world. Looking precisely at the movement of goods and passengers from one place to another it is conclusive that sometimes the aviation industry has caused many damages to different airline companies in the world. According to the year 2010 IATA statistics, the aviation industry incurred over US$ 3.5 billion of damages that originated from the missing of the passengers’ luggage.

The ways in which the transport industry has developed over the last century has made the world change substantially as compared to the state of the world in the years past. By consideration of this development, it is conclusive that airports and aviation industry, in general, will also undergo substantial changes compared to what they have been known in the past. The general definition of an airport is a system and all the components and features making up this system should properly work together thus achieving a common goal. In case one of the components will fail, it is highly likely that the entire system will not achieve its desired outcomes (Eileen & Scott, 2005).

One of the most significant activities at the airports is baggage handling. Currently at the airports all over the world Baggage Handling Control System (BHCS) is in use. It is also one of the most basic and important components in the maintenance of the baggage of the passengers. Objectively, the system is used for transferring the choices entered into the input system to the output of the system. At the moment, the system is used at the airports traditionally. Specifically, the system uses barcode system for the transportation of baggage and passengers at the airports. The barcode is an old and traditional method of identification which has a high percentage of errors. The system also conducts transportation activities of both baggage and passengers at a very low speed and precision. Barcodes of the system cannot be read and controlled without being direct to the sunlight.

Among the main drawbacks of the barcode system is that it cannot identify items simultaneously. The system also has an average of reading precision at between 75% and 90% this being the best manner. Although there have been many attempts by IATA to solve the problem, there has not been found any other way of solving the problem except by RFID which is regarded one of the most progressive ways of reducing problems associated with baggage identification at the airports. The application of the RFID system at the airports for the identification purposes, it will change a tagged baggage element into an intelligent and dynamic tool. This will connect all the baggage at the airport of application of the RFID system to the airport’s information structure.

The application of the RFID technology at the airports, it will reduce and eventually remove the drawbacks of the traditional system. The system has a high precision of reading tags and ability to identify several items simultaneously. Therefore, it will lead to an increase in the speed, efficiency, and precision of the system used in the transportation of the baggage at the airports and the aviation industry in general. One of the main challenges which have caused irreparable damages to the airlines at the airports across the world is the missing of the passengers’ baggage and mistaking of their transport. RFID system will be used in the pursuance of all the baggage in the airports and planes thus averting any mistaken transfer.


Overview of the RFID System

Basics of RFID

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It refers to a device made of a chip and an antenna. The chip is for storage and carrying of data and information. Therefore, a RFID system is used for the transmission of the identity of an object wirelessly by use of the radio waves. The technology is referred to as contact-less, and it is typically composed of three elements (Tzeng, Chen, & Pai, 2008):

  1. Reader
  2. Tags
  • Computer system (Hosts data and information)

Figure 1: A Simple RFID System

The RFID system tag also referred to as the transponder is a small radio device sometimes known as a radio barcode. The tags come in different sizes depending on where they are applied. The tag functions as follows: An electromagnetic field is generated by the reading unit and it induces current in the antenna of the tag which powers the chip. In the case the tags are passive the current is also charges the condenser thus maintaining an uninterrupted supply of power. Once the tag is activated, the reading unit sends commands to it and then the tag sends back the required information or a serial number of the item or the object.

RFID is one of the states of the art technologies. Additionally, it applies electromagnetic fields in the identification of objects and items. The RFID tags to track and identifies items and objects or products on which the system is embedded. The application of RFID technology in aviation is a growing trend. The driving force behind the growth is the identification of baggage and other traveling activities at the airports which were not among the considerations in the past. The RFID technology can ensure that there is control in the ways through which baggage is identified and other traveling activities at the airports. There are two general kinds of RFID tags (Want, 2004):

  1. Active tags
  2. Passive tags.

Passive tags are less expensive than active tags. The tags consist of an internal. They also allow information to move in two ways. The information moves from the tag to the server and from the server back to the tag. They also have a shorter range in comparison to the active tags and their main function is the transmission of data from the RFID system to the server and back.

The Active tags, on the other hand, have an internal source of power which also powers the RFID system ICs as well as generating the outgoing system’s signals. They have a longer range than their counterparts, passive tags. Additionally, they hold and store more data and information because of their large memory. Some of the actives tags are as small as the size of a coin. However, as much as they are small, they can cover a range of 30 feet while the power of their battery can last for several years. They are not economical for tracking single objects that are of little value, and they cannot be used in an autoclave. They are commonly applicable where there is a need for intelligent features such as logging of data through integrated sensors for pressure as well as temperature.

Advances in RFID

One of the advances of RFID system is where fuel with high octane is being used to power the acceptance and growth of the technology. Additionally, there is an ongoing innovation process intended for designing and manufacturing RFID tags that have immense and more capabilities than the current ones. The ongoing process will manufacture tags capable of covering a wider area with more accuracy than the current tags. Also, the tags will not be limited to metals and liquids or environments with extreme weather conditions such as humidity (Finkenzeller, 2003).

The alternative chips upon manufacturing will be not be having chips thus eliminating the physical limitations of the radio waves from the system. Therefore, the new chips will cost less than the current tags. They will also eliminate the need and availability of the integrated circuitry. The new tags will also be used easily without being limited by metallic and liquid surfaces. Additionally, they will be easily integrated into objects such as papers thus increasing their functionality and flexibility.

Developers of the RFID system have also been combining the tags with various kinds of sensors. Therefore, such combinations enable the system to report the collected data and information about an item together with the current data that has been picked by the sensor. Therefore, the tags can report more and variety of information over and over again. A tag fixed on the back of cattle will indicate the temperature of the cattle for the whole day. Therefore, a person will be in a good position of determining whether the meat from the cattle was refrigerated properly. Additionally, the customers, through this improvement of the system will be able to scan items for themselves upon buying from the retail stores.

Benefits of the RFID System

RFID system is preferred in the process of identification because of its benefits which surpass the current identification technologies such as barcodes. The benefits of RFID systems associated with the aviation industry are the improvements of the ways baggage is identified at the airports (Agarwal, 2001).

  1. The tags do not need to have been implemented along the line of sight to enable them to operate as opposed to the barcodes. RFID will still be read even when the system is inside a box or when they are not visible.
  2. The RFID system can be marked invisibly for some applications like on the wristbands
  • The implementation of the RFID system enables systematic and comprehensive tracking of baggage in the airports all over the world. The tracking of baggage can lead to the improvement of the reliability and speed with which traveling activities is carried out along with the approval process.
  1. The implementation of the RFID system improves the inventory management thus enhancing inventory visibility. This results in the reduction of the buffer stock and reduction of prices
  2. The implementation of the technology at the airport can help avert the issue of terrorism at the airports. It can, therefore, save lives that would have been lost
  3. The implementation of RFID system helps to reduce chances of accidents at the airports for both airport workers and the passengers because it automates the processes which would have been done manually.

Drawbacks of RFID Systems

  1. The cost of implementation of the RFID system is very high. Additionally, the system is not plug-and-play, and it has not been proven that it can be implemented in large scale.
  2. The tags do not perform reliably in extreme weather conditions such as humidity. It is also limited to metal surfaces and high temperatures.
  • The RFID system cannot selectively read some tags because it only read the tags along with the certain range of proximity.
  1. The waves of the RFID system can easily be interfered with by the mobile phones and other electronic gadgets.
  2. There are chances that liquids and metals can cause flaws while reading the tags. Therefore, the tags must be placed in a way that they will be read consistently.



Security Concerns of RFID System

The implementation of the RFID system at the airports helps in the identification of the baggage. However, the implementation of the system is not secured. These are some of the security issues associated with the implementation of the RFID system at the airports. The security issues can be managed by limiting the implementation of the technology such as restricting the tag implementation by use of unique ID and then passing the rest of the information into the databases. Some of the constraints and barriers associated with the implementation of the RFID system at the airports are:

  1. Tag collisions
  2. Detuning of the tags
  • Failure of the tags

The above technical difficulties such as the above pose risks to the implementation of the RFID system at the airports and how they are used to identify baggage and other ways through which they are used. Below are some of the specific security problems associated with the implementation of the RFID systems (Meingast, King, & Mulligan, 2007):

  1. There is no global standardization of the protocols for the RFID systems although there is an ongoing process to achieve this. Therefore, the systems can easily be reverse engineered thus being broken easily by the intruders.
  2. The tracking of the people using the method poses security threats and breach of their security. The tags are fixed under their skins and clothes without them knowing.
  • The tags can easily be cloned and hijacked easily which poses significant risks to the identification of the baggage at the airports. The reading of the tags requires the radio waves without consideration of the person who might possess the tag.
  1. Data and information in the RFID systems can easily be tampered with by the holders of the tag or an unauthorized third party. It is also vulnerable to being intercepted if the security is not good enough because of its wireless nature.
  2. The implementation of the tags is limited to how they can be encrypted. Therefore, the implementers of the system cannot easily impose complex algorithms to ensure maximum security. This translates to easily cloning and tampering of the data and information.

Impact of the Implementation

The RFID system is adopted first before being implemented. The process of implementation includes change management, training of the employees, and eventually deployment of the system. The tasks of implementation of the system are important to the company and the success of the system. Although the system cannot be changed directly, it can run parallel with the old system until it can run on its own (De, 2006).


Deployment is characterized by installation and commissioning of the system as well as deploying new procedures of doing things. The tags need to be embedded properly to enable them to be read in the best way possible. The hardware is installed first followed by the software and its configuration later. Additionally, it should include middleware and change of database to accept the new data and information from the system.

The security needs to be configured at the deployment stage where policies are set and other procedures required supporting how the system functions such as specific policies in the aviation industry. The deployment of the system may also require the management of the company to dilute some of the myths about its implementation from the employees. Policies may also be needed to change such as how communication is coordinated with various stakeholders at the company.


The staff such as pilots and other security persons at the airport should undergo basic training to enable them use the new system and understand its technical operations and capabilities. The staff should be introduced properly to the new system and get shown how the system is operated. The users should also undergo practical training and gain experience on how the system is used to identify baggage at the airport. Some of the things training should incorporate are the precautions and guidelines to how the system is used. Additionally, users’ views and comments should be taken into consideration during training.

Continuous Improvements

The system may not be able to perform in the way it is expected. Therefore, there is a necessity to upgrade the system continuously. The aviation industry needs to evaluate the system to see that it has achieved the goals and objectives according to the intentions. The system needs continuous improvements to ensure that it has met the demands of the industry as far as baggage identification is concerned. The system should also be closely monitored, and feedback from the users gathered so that the team responsible can monitor the performance. The performance of the system should be compared to the targets and the objectives of the implementation of the system (Mecham, 2011).


The implementations and applications of RFID system in industries such as retail, entertainment, military, manufacturing, and aviation are increasing every day. Aviation being one of the competitive industries needs to be competitive by offering the passengers high-quality services. One of the ways through which aviation industry can offer high-quality services to the passengers is the implementation of the RFID system. The implementation of the RFID at the identification of the baggage will enable the industry to differentiate itself as a leading industry in embracing the new technologies. Additionally, the implementation and adoption of the RFID technology for the sorting of the baggage and handling along with the global supply chain provide a situation where all the three stakeholders that are the airlines, airports, and the passengers emerge as winners.



Agarwal, V. (2001). Assessing the benefits of auto ID technology in the consumer goods industry. Cambridge: Cambridge Auto-ID Lab.

De, V. J. R. (2006). RFID and aviation medicine. Aviation, Space, and Environmental       Medicine, 77, 4.)

Eileen, P. K., & Scott, G. (2005). RFID tags: Commercial applications vs. privacy rights. Industrial Management and Data Systems , 105 (6), 703-713.

Finkenzeller, K. (2003). RFID handbook: Fundamentals and applications in contactless     smart cards and identification. Chichester: Wiley Publications.

Mecham, M. (2011). RFID slowly gaining applications. Aviation Week and Space Technology (new York), 174, 14.)

Meingast, M., King, J., & Mulligan, D. K. (2007). Embedded RFID and everyday things:             A case study of the security and privacy risks of the U.S. e-Passport. IEEE   International Conference on RFID, (pp. 7-14).

Tzeng, S. F., Chen, W. H., & Pai, F. Y. (2008). Evaluating the business value of RFID:     Evidence from five case studies. International Journal of Production Economics ,      112 (2), 601-613.

Want, R. (2004). The magic of RFID. Queue , 2 (7), 40-48.

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