Wearable tech and augmented reality are no mere flights of fancy these days in Aviation. These tropes of science fiction really have increasingly become science fact over the last five years or so in one of the world’s most safety-conscious and efficiency-driven industries, helping to mitigate the serious health and safety risks which Aviation professionals routinely take in their stride on a daily basis, and get it all done faster. Let’s take a look at what’s happening now and next in the most ‘fashion-forward’, high-tech bag rooms around the world…
The risk of manual handling injuries to the back, shoulders, neck, and knees is inevitably high for bag handlers who typically load hundreds of heavy bags in the course of an average shift. The appeal of handsfree scanning over one-handed operation in the bag room is obvious: it’s a much safer (and speedier!) way of handling heavy bags. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the concept of handsfree and wearable tech has taken off in the bag room where the appeal of ring scanners, smart watches, RFID devices, and even smart glasses is obvious.
In 2018, a major flag carrier customer of ours asked us to integrate ring scanners with mobile devices already utilising our FirstBag solution as part of their Health & Safety strategy to minimise workplace absence owing to injury. FirstBag-enabled ring scanners allow bag handlers to scan barcodes with their thumb to determine whether or not a bag can be loaded, thereby eliminating one-handed operation in the bag room and mitigating the risk of associated injuries.
But why not go even further, however, and wear a smart watch paired with a handheld device for an even slicker process? Such were the thoughts of our R&D team (whilst mindful of the cost and asset management implications of multi-device systems, of course) and they’ve been avidly experimenting with this concept in our lab. Imagine if the handheld device could be safely stowed away in a pocket and bag handlers would merely have to glance at their wrist to check out real-time FirstBag data on their smart watch screen… With a ring scanner on their thumb, a smart watch on their wrist, and FirstBag integrated across all devices, bag handlers would be properly equipped for the safest-and-speediest-ever, two-handed operation in the bag room.
Handsfree tech is not just wearable tech, however. FirstBag-enabled RFID technology in frequent flyer bag tags, for example, has made it even easier to track a bag through every step of its journey (hello IATA753!). Any bag tagged with a RFID frequent flyer bag tag merely has to pass near a RFID scanner on the belt and all relevant data will be instantly displayed. Again, this is a completely handsfree process and no buttons were pushed in the displaying of this data! Just like ring scanners, this particular technology is widely in use already within the Aviation industry.
Smart glasses and augmented reality
Back to the Zafire R&D lab, and the latest addition to this impressive suite of handsfree and wearable devices to undergo testing is smart glasses. With full UV protection, wireless- and Bluetooth-enabled, and IP67-compliant (i.e. ruggedised to cope with environmental factors wherever in the world they are worn), smart glasses are taking wearable tech in the bag room to the next level with augmented reality.
If you were lucky enough to attend FTE Global in Las Vegas last December 2021, perhaps you saw our CEO, Chris Beling, modelling a pair and demoing what they can do? If you missed out, don’t worry, we’re bringing smart glasses with us to Stand 10-96 at this year’s World Aviation Festival at the RAI Amsterdam in the Netherlands where Zafire is exhibiting on 05 and 06 October 2022. Thanks to a camera mounted on the frame and the head-up display functionality, smart glasses enable bag handlers to load any bag simply by staring at the bag tag. The overlay on the head-up display goes green to indicate that the bag has loaded successfully. Again, it’s a totally hands-free process. It’s also exceptionally cool!
Smart phones and augmented reality
If your bag handlers are not quite ready to don the latest pair of smart glasses, however, we’ve also been working on augmented reality for smart phones in our R&D lab. Imagine having the ability to batch scan bags with FirstBag simply by waving your smart device around? It’s not as farfetched as it sounds! By utilising the smart phone’s camera, bag handlers can quite literally scan any bag. Augmented reality overlays the latest information available about the bag on the real-life image of it: if the overlay turns green, for example, the bag can be accepted on the flight.
The practical applications of handsfree scanning or head-up display are not just confined to FirstBag, however. Across both the Aviation and Service Management industries, our R&D boffins continue to test out our Global Aviation Software Solutions and Intelligent Service Management Software, Smart, on the very latest hardware in wearable tech and augmented reality. To what end, you may wonder? The answer is very simple: to enable your staff to supercharge their performance at work. To find out more, email Lou Read, or call Lou on +44 (0) 1295 701 810.