- Literature Review
(Note that proper literature reviews have yet to be done)
(Pics removed to limit size)
Malaysia Airlines (IATA code: MH) is Malaysia’s national carrier that is among the few airlines that serves all 6 continents on Earth. In June 2009, it carried 1.027 million passengers to and from Malaysia and within the country as well.
Among the passengers MH carries some have further requests to be catered, and MH, with its “MH for Malaysian Hospitability”, need to make sure that their requests are fulfilled. But given such a number of passengers that MH carries, management of certain groups of passenger can be difficult.
- Research into Existing System
SSR codes are used to denote required service for someone, e.g. UNMR for unaccompanied minors, WCHR for wheelchairs and MOML for Halal meal request (not in the scope of the project) and are displayed in the Passenger Name Record (PNR). As excerpted from Indian Jet Airways’ Unaccompanied Minors page:
The following are the formalities/procedures for the UMNR travel - Domestic:
The child is handed over to our ground staff at the origin.
The child is escorted by our ground staff and handed over to the In- Flight Executive.
http://www.jetairways.com/, retrieved 10 August 2009
When passengers check in at check-in counters (e.g. at KUL), a ground personnel, either employed by the airlines (flying with MH) or by other airlines (MH handles EgyptAir’s ground service at KUL) or special ground service entity (Emirates’ flights at KUL are handled by KLAS), will be dispatched to escort the passenger to the gate s/he is expected to depart from. The agent is typically expected to be with the passenger at all times until s/he boards the plane, by when the role of taking care to the passenger is handed over to cabin crew.
Cabin crew has access to a manifest known as passenger information sheet which contains all passengers’ information, including name, seat number, transit point (where the passenger has previously boarded a flight before, or will take another flight after, or both) and SSRs.
Upon arrival, the ground agents also have access to the manifest and know who needs what assistance. The passenger normally will wait until everyone disembarks before an agent escorts the passenger to clear immigration (normally with priority) and retrieve checked luggage until the passenger is reunited with his/her family or gets into a taxi.
Currently there are no means of tracking the passengers with SSRs (hereafter called ‘passengers’) centrally. If for some reasons the passenger is dispatched to the wrong gate, or is lost in the process and fail to relocate the passenger in time (e.g. a child that gets too excited and runs around the airport, hiding in somewhere), it can result in failure to send the passenger to the right destination, as demonstrated in Continental Airlines’ PR fiasco when they failed to put two Unaccompanied Minors on the right plane.
- Research into Similar System
- Evacuation Management System by Radiant RFID
Hurricane seasons, normally during August and September each year, often bring destructive forces to American coastal cities and displacing many residents, and breaking families up in the process. It is even more traumatic for those who require special attentions, namely those due to disabilities, age, or sickness – if they are lost to medical personnel their medical records may not be able to be retrieved easily.
Such situation became apparent during 2005 hurricane season, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, arguably among the worst hurricanes ever hit Americans. When Hurricane Rita hit Louisiana’s neighboring states, Hurricane Katrina’s victims, who had yet to return to the devastated homeland such as New Orleans to rebuild, were forced to evacuate to another place once more, causing emergency personnel to lose track of them. It took some time for the personnel to locate them.
Radiant RFID, established in 2004 and is located in Austin, Texas, USA, has developed a tracking system using RFID and GPS to track the evacuees due to any disasters, shown in Figure 2.1. The wristband, as shown in Figure 2.2 with its reader, consists of an Alien Technology Higgs 2 EPC Gen 2, passive, preprogrammed, read-only chip and a custom antenna co-developed by Radiant and RCD Technology, is designed to be tear-proof and boasts a range of over a meter on almost every body size. A special portal is custom-designed by Radiant containing Motorola interrogators to capture data from the tag when an evacuee passes through. (http://www.radiantrfid.com, retrieved 10 August 2009)
The wristbands are issued to evacuees when they meet at an embarkation center and then board buses with GPS to track the buses. When the evacuees disembark the buses they pass through another portal with RFID reader, which then updates the evacuee’s current location. Meanwhile, the evacuees’ locations can be identified in a central control center. Alternatively, instead of RFID, evacuees can be read with barcodes as well, although as stated by Kenneth Ratton, cofounder of Radiant RFID, the usage of RFID not only lessens human errors, but also speeds up evacuation process.
The system was successfully tested in real-life situations during 2008 hurricane season, when Hurricane Gustav and Ike struck American Mainland. 34,800 people were evacuated and tracked using the system. It took just minutes or seconds to track an evacuee in Hurricane Gustav with this system, compared to weeks to find one during Hurricane Rita.
(http://www.rfidjournal.com, retrieved 10 August 2009)
- Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) RFID luggage handling system
Aside passenger handling, luggage handling is one of the key element to determine how efficient the airport is. Currently the tags are 1D barcodes that, contrary to popular belief, do not contain destination airport code; they contain 10-digit numeric code, assigned by check-in agents. The tags are affixed to the luggage prior being sent to sorting system, where they will be sorted to their ultimate destination with their tags.
The usage of barcodes mean that, in order the tag to be read, it has to be in direct sight, and the tags’ barcodes are not smudged or otherwise made unreadable. Luggage can frequently gone AWOL, bringing inconveniences to the passenger, who have to live without their supplies, be it temporarily or otherwise, in a foreign place, as well as to the airlines, who have to locate the luggage and pay compensation to the passengers.
After 2 years of adoption of RFID-based luggage handling system in HKIA, the system went online in 2005. As shown in Figure 2.3, the luggage that arrive at the airport, either via check-in counters or transfer passengers, are tagged with an RFID-enabled luggage label. Both barcode readers and RFID readers are present before primary sorter, then passing through X-ray scanner and secondary sorter before being tracked with RFID at Lateral. Throughout luggage sorting area there are more than 200 readers, at least 500 antennas, as shown in Figure 2.4, and more than 200 handheld terminals, shown in Figure 2.5, operated with 4W of power level per Hong Kong regulations. The RFID tags are class-0 tags with 96 bits of pre-encoded UID (unique identifier) adopting UHF band of 920-925MHz.
Since the adoption of RFID-based luggage handling system, the airport can identify a particular piece of luggage more accurately, with up to 97% of read rate, compared to 80% of accurate read rate using conventional barcode tags. Using RFID luggage tags also enhances security for the airport management and airlines, as well as reducing cost associated with lost luggage.
- Comparisons of Different Systems
Privacy with perforated antenna
- Problem Solving Technique
Radio-frequency identification, or more widely known as RFID, is a system where a reader reads tag(s) via radio frequency waves and interprets the content with a predefined format. The technologies that RFID system uses have been here for a while, but only recently the usage has become widespread that now many are not aware that they are using items that contain RFID tags in it.
Various RFID systems are in the market for different purposes and the cost for each system vary greatly, but their functionality, as well the technology employed, are essentially the same.
Each RFID tag has the following essential components:
- Antenna – primarily for transmitting and receiving radio frequencies to communicate with the readers. Passive tags also use the antennas to collect energy.
- Integrated Circuit (IC) – An essential part of a tag, its job is to transmit the tag’s unique identifier, and also as a master controller for more complex tags.
- Printed Circuit Board (PCB) – Holds the tag together. Depending on the purpose, it can be rigid or flexible, as well as being made of different materials.
Two major classifications of RFID tags, active tags and passive tags are in the market today. An active tag has its own power source, typically battery. Such tags have greater ranges compared to passive counterparts and also can be read through impenetrable materials, but they are larger and more expensive, mostly due to batteries, and the batteries limits its lifespan, depending on its beacon rate, which is the interval of the signal being sent. At up to 8MB, active tags also have larger amount of memory
Passive tags, on the other hand, are cheap to manufacture, much smaller, and therefore, more common on the market. Passive tags collect energy through its antenna. They, however, have comparatively limited range, and may not be read through impenetrable materials. Furthermore, passive tags are notably lower in memory, often not exceeding 64KB.
In order to read and understand the content of RFID tags, appropriate readers are needed for the purpose. Essentially there are at least two components needed for any reader:
- Antennas are needed to receive and transmit radio frequency. The effectiveness of RFID deployments largely depend on the selection of appropriate antennas.
- Integrated Circuit (IC) board handles necessary information to communicate with the tag. Each board contains a microprocessor, memory and a radio frequency transponder.
Java programming language is an object-oriented programming language that executes its programs in a virtual machine, known as Java Virtual Machine, making the programs written in Java platform-independent. This makes Java a more versatile option when making a program.
In addition there are several Java library packages that are made available for users to use on their program, known as Advanced Programming Interface or API. The library is ever-expanding with efforts from programmers throughout the world.
An RFID API has been made available at sun-http://rfid.dev.java.net that should be able to provide RFID functions to the programmers.
As existing system does not offer any tracking system for passengers with SSRs, it is apparent that one should be built to better locate those passengers in near real-time situations. This project’s technological implementations have been studied for best effectiveness and efficiency. RFID set-ups will be used as a measure to track the passengers, while Java is chosen to implement the project and program.