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Hands On Luggage passport prevents bag tampering

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June 26, 2005

Hands On Luggage passport prevents bag tampering

Hands On Luggage passport prevents bag tampering

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June 27, 2005 The plight of Australian tourist Schapelle Corby seems to have struck fear into tourists around the world that they could face long jail terms by being innocently convicted of crimes whilst on holidays. Corby was recently sentenced to 20 years in an Indonesian jail after being found guilty of smuggling 4kg of cannabis from Australia amidst common knowledge that the Australian airline industry has an entrenched drug smuggling problem and raising fears the world over that passenger bags could be tampered with. With the Corby appeal in full swing, innovation think tank BDi realised that several of the concepts and projects that they were working on could be brought together to form a solution to luggage tampering and theft. The first part of this project is now being launched - the HandsOn Luggage Passport.

The concept is very simple. The traveller uses a luggage passport into which important information is entered in a legally acceptable form that can be used as evidence in the event of illegal activity pertaining to the luggage but not the owner.

The HandsOn Passport is designed to record the checked-in weight of luggage, and this can be compared with the weight at the collection point. Any discrepancy will show a removal of or addition to the luggage while it was "out of sight". This can be reported and investigated before passing through the customs hall, thereby removing the committal of any offence.

If Schapelle Corby had realised that her bag was four kilograms heavier than at check-in, the alarm could have been raised before she got to customs and her innocence would not have been questioned. As if proof was needed of this, Corby’s lawyers have now requested the weight information for her Boogie Board Bag at the time of check-in to help establish her innocence through the appeal. This case illustrates how little information the traveller is given and how easy it is to be found guilty because of a lack of tangible documentary evidence.

BDi believes that by making travellers more aware of the risks, and at the same time giving them the means to collect and maintain a "chain of evidence" to offset any accusations of illegal activity, the world of travel can become less of a gamble. The Luggage Passport is a simple platform designed to keep the traveller focused on what the risks are, and how to overcome or reduce them. The system involves not only collection of weight information, but also photographic evidence of the contents and condition of luggage. This is something that the advent of digital photography and the camera equipped cell-phone is ideally suited to.

The Luggage Passport platform can be integrated into a number of other pre-existing ideas and systems. The passport can be embedded with an RFID loop or a Smart chip, it can use bar codes, or simply manual reading and data entry. This multiple redundancy of data and non-reliance on computer based or electrical systems means that even in power outages, natural disasters and other eventualities, travellers have what they need to prove ownership of the bag, and be protected from criminal and other activity.

There is another reason for maintaining a simple document-based format, and that is the imminent arrival of RFID Ink technology that can provide RFID levels of security from ink used to print onto the passport pages. The principal difference between the Luggage Passport system and that of proposed RFID and Smart Chip systems is the inclusion of the traveller in the loop. There is little point in instigating a security system that is operated by and can be manipulated by the very people under suspicion of illegal activity, but not providing the means for the traveller to prove innocence of any wrongdoing when this has occurred.

Some of the potential uses of the passport:

1 ... Storage of printed or written data concerning date, time, flight and weight of bag information in human readable or machine readable form. Weight discrepancies will alert travellers to theft, and narcotics or weapons planting in their hold luggage.

2 ... Storage of photographic data of contents of bags before departure, and condition of bags. This is easily comparable on arrival and any changes to contents or damage to the bag can be proven.

3 ... Collaboration with electronic systems to reduce baggage loss/theft. By implanting an RFID chip in the passport as well as in the bag, the traveller can be scanned on boarding the aircraft and the presence of his passport instantly compared with the recorded presence of his bag in the hold. Any discrepancy is more readily corrected before departure. Any unaccompanied bags can be spotted and removed before take off. There are many implications to using the passport this way, including providing enhanced anti-terrorist security. At present aircraft routinely fly with untagged and unaccompanied luggage because of the use of easily removed or torn-off baggage tags.

4 ... Providing a chain of evidence that can be used by defence lawyers or passed to customs and police authorities to help not only prove the innocence of the traveller but also to provide evidence of the offence being carried out while the bag was "out of sight". The recent arrests and ongoing investigations in Australia are an example of the problem of proving the guilt of criminals working "out of sight".

BDi are hoping that with the co-operation of airlines, airports and other travel operators, the system can be quickly integrated into current thinking and be used by individual travellers wanting to improve the odds in their favour. Over time the system can be built on and enhanced, as airlines eventually agree on global systems as manufacturers have already done with the Electronic Product Code through EPC Global.

It is ironic that the average tube of toothpaste will have RFID security and tracing capabilities before the expensive luggage you use or your treasured possessions!

People interested in learning more about the Luggage Passport system, can email enquiries here.

Phases Two and Three of the system will be announced shortly

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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