FastTrack's Vision for Smart Luggage—And Happier Flyers

Two devices, to be used separately or together, could help travelers stay connected with their bags, and provide airlines and airports with a new marketing and loyalty program channel.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 09, 2015

As you read this, a piece of luggage—not one belonging to an actual traveler, but a piece of test luggage—may be airborne, having gone aloft on a test flight operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The company is hosting the first stage of a proof-of-concept test for the eTag and eTrack, two electronic luggage tags developed by FastTrack Co., a startup based in London and Amsterdam. The devices will allow passengers to use their smartphones to track their bags.

If you were a passenger on a US Airways flight back in 2007, this may have sounded like music to your ears. That year, the airline mishandled the checked baggage of roughly one out of every 118 passengers. In fact, 2007 marked a low point in baggage handling across airlines, with the U.S. Department of Transportation data showing that 7.03 out of every 1,000 passengers experienced problems with checked bags that year. But thanks to airlines' investments in technology and a drop in bag volume due to luggage check-in fees, that figure improved by more than 50 percent by 2013. US Airways saw a 70 percent reduction in mishandled bags.

The eTag
That improvement begs the question: Do flyers need a better way to track their bags? And, if so, will they pay for it? David van Hoytema, FastTrack's CFO and co-founder, answers both with a resounding yes.

"People are stressed about their bags," van Hoytema says. "When people drop off a bag, they stare at it as it goes down the conveyor belt. When they are waiting for the bags upon arrival, they crowd in right by the luggage shoot." He cites research from travel industry consultancy CWT Solutions Group, which showed that 80 percent of travelers express concern over losing their bags as their chief worry about air travel.

For the current tests, Air France-KLM is serving as a host, helping FastTrack engineers to ensure that the devices' wireless technology works as it should and in compliance with national regulations. The governing body that regulates wireless technology used on commercial flights in Europe is the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). "Other regions and countries have similar bodies which tend to follow EASA or FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] regulations. "We take the approach that if we conform to the strictest rules—those of the EASA—we will conform to other regions as well," van Hoytema says.

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