Rimowa’s E-ink Luggage Tag is Why Your Next Suitcase Might Vanish
Airlins have been experimenting with electronic luggage tags for the past several years, and now a German luggage manufacturer has come up with a design which is bound to cause an unending stream of problems.
Engadget has a report on Rimowa's new line of hard case luggage with integrated E-ink tags:
Rimowa’s electronic tag is essentially an E Ink display with the same width as a standard paper luggage tag (it already has the green stripe required for all flights departing from European airports), and it uses Bluetooth radio to grab data from either Rimowa’s dedicated app or supported airline apps — right now these are only available on iOS. The Rimowa app is for initiation as well as switching the tag to contact information mode — so that the E Ink display can still be of good use if your airline or airport don’t support electronic tags. As for the airline app, simply use its luggage check-in tool to sync the electronic tag, then just drop the suitcase off at a dedicated airport counter (pending ID verification, of course).
Bluetooth pairing can only be enabled with a button inside the suitcase (30 seconds per session), so you’ll obviously have to set a passcode on the locks just to be safe. The electronic tag module is powered by two AAA batteries which can refresh the display about 500 times per charge. And due to the nature of E Ink, the image is retained even if the module runs out of battery.
That sounds like a nifty idea, but look at the tag and tell me if you can see the problem I spotted:
The tags are integrated into the case, which means they are not located on the handle where an airport worker will be looking if they have to manually transfer a bag. That means that one of these cases, which cost 60 euros more than Rimowa’s regular suitcases, is more likely to be pulled from a conveyor belt and sent to the lost luggage office.
Sure, most luggage is handled by automatic equipment rather than people, but if a person gets involved they won’t see the electronic tag at first. All they’ll see is that there’s no tag attached to the handle, and they might not realize there’s an electronic tag until after they start trying to identify who owns this pace of luggage.
This trikes me as a great way to misplace an expensive piece of luggage, don’t you think?
The Commons July 9, 2016 um 5:12 am
Given the proximity of the display to the handle and the commonplace usage of additional mini-barcodes stuck to the body of a case—which handlers will look for first if the handle tag is missing—I suspect this will be much less of a problem than you think it is.
The Commons July 9, 2016 um 5:18 am
Also: three years ago British Airlines ran a trial of the same thing except with the display built into a tag that went onto the handle, as you seem to indicate would be preferable. The lack of e-ink handle tags would seem to suggest… something.
Nate Hoffelder July 9, 2016 um 6:13 am
I’ve never seen those stickers you speak of.
Shayne December 13, 2018 um 12:06 am
Work in the Baggage Technology space and am very across this.
The concerns raised in this article are not real. Baggage ground handlers are trained workers and as this technology is adopted more and more, the processes and people need to be uplifted as well. I can see that as an early adopter, handlers may not be ready for this, but I can’t see that this dramatically increases the chances that bags will be issued to lost property.
However, automated barcode reading arrays will probably have lower read-rates for this tag positioning compared to traditional thermal adhesive printed tags that are generally hanging off a bag’s handle. This wouldn’t be a dramatic impact to overall read rates and the removal of printed barcode smudging/wear conditions would probably offset this. I’ve been involved in some trials involving e-tag readability through automated tag reading arrays and it seems work just fine! Of course, when (if…) UHF RFID reader infrastructure becomes more prevalent in airports, read rates would jump up dramatically. Regardless, baggage systems have built in exception handling