Bagtag Track: Suitcase tracker with mobile communications and acceleration sensor
The Dutch company Bagtag is developing a suitcase tracker that clearly exceeds the capabilities of other tracking systems and can be used in aircraft. At the Passenger Terminal Expo trade fair in Amsterdam, heise online was able to talk to the provider about its “Bagtag Track” project.
The company has some experience with tracking technology. It offers so-called Electronic Baggage Tags (EBT) on which baggage information can be stored for air travel. Instead of a paper label, the barcodes with the flight route are shown on an e-paper display. The Bagtag software also supports the old Rimowa cases with EBT systems, which are no longer sold.
Tracker reports location via radio
The same software is also used to manage Bagtag Track. The suitcase tracker can be placed in the suitcase and report an accurate location. According to the provider, the tracker uses all possible connections: 2G and 3G mobile communications, W-LAN, Bluetooth Low Energy and RFID. In addition, there is position determination via satellite systems such as GPS.
In contrast to Apple’s Airtag or Samsung’s Galaxy Tag, Bagtag Track transmits its position itself via the mobile network and is therefore not dependent on the presence of compatible smartphones. Bagtag Track still works if the suitcase falls somewhere on the apron where nobody is often on the move.
The system is linked to travel service provider Amadeus’ Departure Control System and the tracker can process a signal from air traffic to figure out when to go into flight mode and when to come out again. When asked, Bagtag did not want to say exactly which signal is used.
aircraft position data
The hardware itself is made by Versa. Looking at Versa’s products, it is obvious that they are ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast). This enables aircraft to continuously transmit their position and other data such as flight number, aircraft type, speed or altitude at 1090 MHz.
When landing, the combination of an acceleration sensor and ADS-B provides reliable indicators that the tracker is allowed to leave flight mode and send its position via mobile communications again.
According to the manufacturer, a fully charged tracker lasts for about ten flight segments. Thanks to the flight mode, the length of the flight is not necessarily decisive. The tracker is charged via USB type C. Bagtag could not say how big the battery is. In view of the similar design of the Versa 1 tracker, one can assume that the Bagtag Tracker shares its capacity of seven watt hours.
Problem: Batteries in checked baggage
However, there are still uncertainties, which is why Bagtag is hesitant to bring the finished product to market. The aviation industry and authorities are currently discussing how to deal with batteries in devices in checked baggage in the future. The UN aviation organization ICAO and its department for “Dangerous Goods” are responsible for this. Only towards the middle of the year should it be foreseeable whether and what will change. Airlines are currently giving conflicting information about what is allowed and what is not.
Bagtag now wants to wait and see what will come of it – although the product is basically finished. If necessary, the capacity of the battery has to be adjusted to comply with new regulations – in the worst case, Bagtag Track could not even come onto the market.