IATA Type B Bag Messages and Baggage Messaging Refresher

There is quite some movement in baggage handling and its associated messaging needs and requirements at the moment.  Though the IATA recommended practices RP 1745 and RP 1800 are around for quite a while, the IATA Resolution 753 (baggage tracking and custody) has to be implemented by June 2018 and the new BAG XML message standard is shaping up and will most likely released first time in 2017. Traditionally any handling of baggage requires a type-B message to be sent to the relevant parties. This is a push-based approach and due to the nature of type-B messages prone to errors (format) and accumulate costs by the distributing network operators and its transaction based charges. According to a IATA study/business case in the year 2012 26 million of bags have been mishandled, mostly for transfer bag handling and a good share of this is caused by missing or wrong messages.

This article is meant to provide an overview or general introduction, aka baggage messaging for starters. Baggage Handling is very complex process with dependencies and actors, including airlines, airport, handling agent and eventually the passenger and his baggage.

Main Systems involved in the process of baggage handling

DCS Departure Control System
BHS Baggage Handling System
BRS Baggage Reconciliation System

DCS
The Departure Control System is the operational backbone of every airline. It supports the check-in, baggage acceptance, boarding process and other related activities like load control, immigration.

BHS
The Baggage Handling System (usually owned by the airport) is a complex system of conveyor belts, chutes and bag drops that transports and buffers any checked-in luggage. It ensures that luggage that is checked-in, transferred or received from arriving flights is tracked, counted, scanned, screened and transported to the right bag chute or belt.

BRS
The Baggage Reconciliation System, usually used by the handling agent, helps to match passenger, bag, flight and container.

Traditional Type-B Messages for Baggage Handling (defined in IATA RP 1745)
RP 1745 defines the formats of the messages exchanged between the systems for automated baggage and passenger reconciliation, baggage sortation and other baggage services.

BTM Baggage Transfer Message
BSM Baggage Source Message
BPM Baggage Processed Message
BUM Baggage Unload Message
BNS Baggage Not Seen Message
BCM Baggage Control Message
BMM Baggage Manifest Message
BRQ Baggage Request

Baggage Tag Number or License Plate Code
A unique 10 digit number as reference for each piece of baggage, defined in IATA RP 740.
The bag tag number is part of the baggage messages.
According to resolution 751, effective June 1st 2013, the format contains only numbers.
Sample: 0220208212 (0-220-208212)

1 1 digit Leading digit 0
2 3 digit Airline code 220 Lufthansa
3 6 digit Bag number 208212

The printed barcode is a regular ITF-14 code, any smartphone can read the barcode. The number is also printed on the bag tag.

KLM is printing a “KL” in between but the barcode only contains numbers. “074” for KLM.

BTM
The Transfer Message contains bag information for the outbound carrier of incoming transfer passengers. Part of a through check-in transaction.

BSM
The Source Message is sent from the DCS to the baggage handling system upon checkin at the airport or bag drop.

BPM
The Processed Message is an status update sent locally, eg. baggage handling to carrier. BPM’s are often batched.

BUM
The Unload Message is the instruction to unload (or not to load) a specific bag, eg. no-show PAX at the gate.

BNS
The Not Seen Message contains bag info for baggage that could not been transported together with the passenger.

BCM
The Control Message serves secondary level information, such as
BAM Baggage Acknowledgement
FOM Flight Open
FMM Final Match
DBM Delete Baggage

BMM
The Baggage Manifest contains baggage details for down line stations.

BRQ
The Baggage Request asks for bag info from a baggage handling system.

Sample Message
A very simple sample of a transfer message

BTM
.V/1TOFRA
.I/LH123/14OCT/CPH
.F/LH234/14OCT/SIN
.N/0220588615021
.P/SMITH/JOHN   
.L/7FABC
ENDBTM
1 .V Version and suppl. data Transfer Station FRA (Frankfurt)
2 .I Inbound Flight Number and date CPH (Copenhagen)
3 .F Outbound Flight Number and date SIN (Singapore)
4 .N Baggage Details 10 digit bag tag id 0220588615021
5 .P Passenger Name John Smith
6 .L PNR Passenger Name Record 7FABC

Message Flow for interline flight

The below is rather simplistic view (sunshine scenario) of the messaging that happens around bag management for a 2 segment interline flight with through-check-in of bags.

Message Flow for interline flight
A passenger is flying on LH 401 from JFK to FRA and SQ 025 from FRA to SIN. An interline flight with baggage checked through Singapore.

Relevant Documentation or References

IATA RP 1745 Baggage Service Messages
IATA RP 1796
Baggage System Interface
IATA RP 1701f
Self Service Baggage Process
IATA RP 1800
Baggage Process Description for Self-Service Check-in
IATA RES 753
Baggage Tracking

Online References
Remark: Most of the IATA documents are not available freely and have to be purchased, here only links to public documents or pages.

IATA RES 753 https://www.iata.org/whatwedo/stb/Documents/baggage-tracking-res753.pdf
IATA BAG XML Initiative
http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/ops-infra/baggage/Pages/baggage-xml.aspx

Disclaimer: The information provided here might not be correct or complete. It is for educational purpose only. For reliable information please refer to the IATA manuals.

MOOC – E-Learning on Steroids

Hardly any industry is moving as fast as the IT industry. While your operational experience and knowledge of the vertical domain you are working in, is growing naturally along your career, it is not the same for IT. For example the airport environment, the underlying basics and physics of handling aircrafts, planning flights, etc. are exposed to changes, innovations and challenges, look at the A-CDM program, it took quite some years to take off and become main-stream, that is a much slower than any new general IT technology or platform soaring. Though this industry is picking up speed too and the boundaries between the digital and physical world start to blur more and more, airports are running digital transformation programs, though passengers still flying in the physical world.

But on the IT side of things, the speed is way beyond breath-taking and it is hard to keep a minimal overview over many areas of IT concerns as well dive into specific topics. How to stay up-to-date and tune into relevant topics ? Books (ink and electronic versions) and forums are certainly the traditional approach, on top of that you join conferences and in-persons seminars and training (which comes at a cost and time spent).

Since the 2000’s online courses came into the picture, as the successor for e-learning, and allow a much bigger audience to learn new technologies, skills and more. The very positive part, there are lots and lots of free courses, most platforms offer free and commercial courses, sometimes free to participate and only charge a fee if you want to get an official certificate (one can argue about the value of such certs) but most important, you can learn and move forward and update your knowledge with the click of a button.

The big challenge though is to identify what you need or interested in, find the right courses and, most important, manage your time. Using your spare time you have to choose wisely, you can’t run for every course out there, even they are so many you are interested in and you are temped to sign up for a dozen of courses, only not to finish any of them.

Todays key-/buzzword for this is MOOC or Massive Open Online Courses. This is like e-learning on steroids, in the past you had to look at dull corporate slides pretty much by yourself, now we look at videos, reading material online and offline, interactions with the organizer, mentor, trainer or your virtual peers at various levels.

Not only the organizations that started online learning, like schools and universities, are into the game, as well companies operating specific online course platforms and now book publishing companies offering courses and finally professional social platforms like LinkedIn.

I attended online courses at Coursera and Udacity, which offer a broad range of topics, and now started with some specific courses on HCI and UX at Interaction Design Foundation which solely offers courses on UX, HCI, Visualization and related topics. Though the courses are unattended (except the rating of your text answers or comments) but repeating, you still have a motivation to participate and go though the lessons because you pay money and they help you pacing the whole course by releasing the lesson packages over time.

Stay tuned for the results.

Build a RESTful Webservice in less than 5 minutes

There are quite some tutorials around about building and exposing a RESTful Webservice, but some of them are outdated and make you wade through complex dependencies and tinkering with deployment descriptors and web.xml files. But using RESTeasy, the JBoss implementation that is fully compliant with the JAX-RS 2.0 JCP specification, and Eclipse you can build a simple webservice (“hello world”) with less than 10 lines of sourceode with annotations and no web.xml used in a few minutes and run it on Wildfly.

Lets build a webservice that creates random numbers.

Continue reading

Airport AODB goes NoSQL (Part 1)

In previous blog posts I discussed ‘AODB and Big Data‘ and ‘AODB in the Cloud‘. As promised, in this third and largest part of the review, I will look at the NoSQL database approach, design a document datamodel, embed it into a MEAN stack and conclude in looking forward implementing an AODB in a Serverless Architecture using Microservices.

In this new series I will review the benefits and options of using a document-oriented database (NoSQL) and start a transition journey moving away from a relational database model to document database.

Robert Yarnall Richie, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Lockheed 12A Electra Junior, Delta Air Lines at Dallas Airport in 1940 by Robert Yarnall Richie (DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

Before jumping into relational datamodel review and document design we shall have look at some industry initiatives and working groups that strive for standards with semantic models, business models,  information and data models and exchange formats and patterns. While a lot of airport systems have been developed years back in the absence of these models, but with best knowledge and common practice and experience in the field, we cannot ignore further the existence of emerging and established standards. For legacy systems is near to impossible to adopt the models at the core business implementation layer as products are usually designed around a datamodel which cannot be changed without a significant or even total redesign of the system. Here the approach is the adoption of the models at an integration and mapping layer. You can adopt eg. AIDX as messaging exchange format without having to use it as base of the product, though it creates additionally effort to create mappings. An additional challenge is certainly the number of models around because they were created by different organisations with different but often overlapping aviation domains in mind. I have to admit the organisations are cooperating and represented in the working groups to achieve a level of harmonization where possible. We look at IATA, ICAO, ACI, Eurocontrol, EUROCAE as lead organizations here.

Lets list the current models. This list is certainly not complete and only provides a brief overview. We can and should benefit from the availability of these models (most of them are freely accessible). A lot of standardization effort is going on at the moment, please note some models are to be considered as “work-in-progress”, some are quite advanced, major changes are not be expected and some are also due to submission to governing boards soon or in the process of it. Once the models, at least the exchange message formats, start materializing as official standard we will see them appearing in requirement and tender documents and soon to be out there to simplify system integration.

AIDX Aviation Information Data Exchange IATA XML Message Standard ***
AIDM Airline Industry Data Model IATA Model **
AIRM ATM Information Reference Model Eurocontrol Model ***
AIXM Aeronautical Information Exchange Model Eurocontrol Model ***
ACRIS Semantic Model ACI Model *
AMXM Aerodrome Mapping Exchange Model EUROCAE Model ***
FIXM Flight Information Exchange Model Model ***
WXXM Weather Information Exchange Model Eurocontrol Model ***
BAG XML
Baggage Message Exchange Eurocontrol XML Message Standard *

Status as of end 2016
*** official release available
* work in progress

In the context of AODB products I will look at the below models and message standards first, though all of them are important because there is no clear borderline in the heterogeneous IT landscape at airports, eg. it is a common request by users to see weather data being displayed in dashboards of an AODB despite weather is not a key entity. In the further blog entries, while establishing a new datamodel, we will also discuss the individual models. Some models focus more on ATM and less on airport related activities.

AIDX

Aviation Information Data Exchange is a XML messaging standard to allow information exchange between airlines, airports and other parties in the aviation community. It has been initially created in 2005 and was officially released in 2008, endorsed by IATA Recommended Practice 1797A. Being one of the old timer in this list it is already established and adopted by more than 100 entities. It comprises almost 100 distinct fields that cover most aspects of flight, aircraft and handling details, inclusive of A-CDM. The AIDX working group is governed by ASC (Airport Services Committee) and PADIS (Passenger and Airport Data Interchange Standards) board under the custody of PSC (Passenger Service Conference).

Please note that AIDX will be migrated into the AIDM (Airline Industry Data Model) which has a much broader scope than AIDX. We shall not ignore AIDX as it will be around for a long time in its raw format and we can expect the AIDM implementation would be quite close (to be discussed and confirmed).

The current release is 16.1. Please follow below links for schema and implementation guide.

 

AIDM and BAG XML

The Airline Industry Data Model (AIDM) has a very broad scope and encompass industry terminology, data definitions, relationships, business requirements.
Looking at an evolution from paper (eg. loadsheets ticket), teletype messages to EDIFACT, the emerging new standards as models and XML are the latest step in the evolution and promise to deliver a better consistency of definitions and data formats, as well an improved interoperability and faster system integration times.
AIDM is work-in-progress and give its nature and vast landscape it might be the continuous model for it, though confirmed standards will arise from it. One of the first implementations adopting the AIDM is the BAG XML initiative which improves bag handling related bag messaging, distribution and does away with the traditional type B messages (BTM, BSM, BPM, BUM, BNS, BCM, BMM, BRQ as per IATA RP 1745).
The documents are not public at this stage, only registered member can access the model which is build with Sparx Enterprise Architect.

In part 2 I will review a simplified relational database model for an AODB as starting point for our migration journey. Stay tuned.

Some reference websites and material you find below.

References Organizations

Eurocontrol https://www.eurocontrol.int
ACI Airports Council International http://www.aci.aero
IATA International Air Transport Association http://www.iata.org
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization http://www.icao.int
EUROCAE European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment https://www.eurocae.net
RTCA Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics http://www.rtca.org

References Standardization and models

ACRIS http://www.aci.aero/About-ACI/Priorities/Airport-IT/ACRIS
AIRM http://im.eurocontrol.int/wiki/index.php/ATM_Information_Reference_Model
https://www.eurocontrol.int/articles/airm-atm-information-reference-model
https://www.eurocontrol.int/sites/default/files/content/documents/sesar/8.1.3.d47-airm-primer-v4.1.0.pdf
AIDM http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/passenger/Pages/industry-data-model.aspx
AIDX http://www.iata.org/publications/Pages/info-data-exchange.aspx
BAG XML http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/ops-infra/baggage/Pages/baggage-xml.aspx
AIXM http://www.aixm.aero
https://ext.eurocontrol.int/aixmwiki_public/bin/view/Main/
WXXM http://www.wxxm.aero
FIXM https://www.fixm.aero
AMXM http://www.amxm.aero

( Model, implementation guidelines or schema available on website without registration.)

References Technology:

Disclaimer: This discussion, datamodel and application is for study purpose solely. It does not reflect or replicate any existing commercial product.

Geolocation of mobile phones in the GSM network

As user of mobile phones we are used to have an almost 100% coverage for phone calls (not for data though) and the user-experience is absolutely seamless in most urban and sub-urban areas in Europe and most other countries. Moving around in trains and cars we cant sense the hand-over in the background of the GSM (2G, GPRS, EDGE), UMTS (3G), LTE (4G) network passing on our connection between the BTS ( base transceiver station). As regular user we dont have an idea about the number and location of cell towers around us, some towers or antennas are mounted on very obvious structures (antennas on towers), some are almost hidden. Though the GSM antennas can have a range of up to 35km (flat plane vs less than 5km in hilly areas), we have much higher density of cells in the urban area with antennas almost every few 100 metres or less. There are a lot of parameters influencing the infrastructure and its layout at a certain place, I wont dive into the details of if, you can get some info on the reference sites listed at the end of the article.

Rather approaching this topic hands-on, I was curious about the information that I can retrieve with Android about the active cells, its location and ultimately about the information the network operator (or other interested parties) collects about one. We might disable the GPS function of a phone to stop apps to collect our whereabouts, giving apps access to the phone state still gives a coarse location profile.

Usually phones dont reveal any network information other than the network operator but with the help of some regular Android methods of the TelephonyManager and GsmCellLocation class we get the crucial information.

The key info we are looking for is

  • MCC – Mobile Country Code
  • MNC – Mobile Network Code
  • LAC – Location Area Code
  • CELLID – The ID of the cell

Only the combination of the above 4 values is unique and can identify the location. You can look at a directory of MCC codes at Wikipedia, but there is no list of of LAC and CELLID codes published by the provider. But in the era of the “crowd” there is a collaborative community collecting the measurements of cellphones and putting them into a DB (CC-BY-SA 3.0). At  opencellid.org you can both retrieve information about cell towers as well download the complete DB.

OpenCellID.org - cell info

OpenCellID.org – cell info

I was curious how often we change the cell and what geo information I could retrieve from this, respectively build a geo profile of myself moving around. I build an app the listens to the currently active cell, lists it up on the screen and logs it into a csv files, and optionally gives an acoustic notification (beep) every time cell has changed.

MyCellDroid Beta App

MyCellDroid Beta App

Quite surprising, during one of the first tests, driving a 100km distance along the highway, both rural and suburban area, I passed through more than 80 cells !

Relevant Android methods

TelephonyManager telephonyManager = (TelephonyManager) this.getSystemService(Context.TELEPHONY_SERVICE);
mcc = telephonyManager.getNetworkOperator().substring(0, 3);
mnc = telephonyManager.getNetworkOperator().substring(3);
operator = telephonyManager.getNetworkOperatorName();

GsmCellLocation location = (GsmCellLocation) telephonyManager.getCellLocation();
lac = location.getLac();
cellid = location.getCid();

Be aware of the permissions required

 <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.READ_PHONE_STATE" />
 <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION" />

A extra note about Android 6.x+ development, Google changed massively the permission concept and apps require an additional confirmation of the required permissions (for so-called dangerous permissions) during runtime, this has to be implemented specifically, otherwise your application which runs on earlier Android versions will crash. I will share the relevant implementation in an upcoming entry.

Note for Samsung Phones: The function to get information about the nearby cells is not supported by Samsung phones

List<NeighboringCellInfo> neighborCells = telephonyManager.getNeighboringCellInfo();

This list will all be null on Samsung phones. You only can retrieve information about the currently connected cell.

I will try to make some more sense out of the collected data and see how fine-grain the collected data reveals my location.

Btw, there are dozens of similar apps in the Playstore and some even report back collected data to improve and build up the opencellid project database.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_site
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_transceiver_station
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sector_antenna
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellular_network
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_country_code
  6. https://developer.android.com/reference/android/telephony/NeighboringCellInfo.html
  7. https://developer.android.com/reference/android/telephony/TelephonyManager.html
  8. https://developer.android.com/reference/android/telephony/gsm/GsmCellLocation.html
  9. https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/security/permissions.html

Exploring a SQLite Database on Android

or “How to read SQLite DB from a desktop”

SQLite is the relational, embedded, ACID compliant database that comes with Android. Due to this fact it is certainly the most deployed DB engine on this planet. In case your application need to have CRUD features for local persisted data and the complexity level is beyond a simple text file, you have to consider it.

A challenge is to look into the (raw) DB from your desktop (if you dont want to build and integrate a DB viewer into your app). As Android apps store databases into their respective /data subfolder and if you don’t have a rooted phone, you cant look inside this folder.

I am not aware of any tool that can open a connection to the DB remotely, so the best way is to copy the DB file into the accessible SD card (or whatever the phone and its manufacturer considers as SD card, even the internal memory mounted as SD card), download it to your desktop and open it with a tool like the SQLite DB Browser.

Let’s put some sourcecode here as reference

Create a simple demo DB

No bells and whistles, no helper classes, etc. just the most simple way to create DB and a table.

 
    private void createDB() {
        SQLiteDatabase sampleDB = this.openOrCreateDatabase("MYDEMODB", MODE_PRIVATE, null);
        sampleDB.execSQL("CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS MYTABLE (Last VARCHAR, First VARCHAR, Role VARCHAR);");
        sampleDB.execSQL("INSERT INTO MYTABLE Values ('Smith','John','CEO');");
        sampleDB.execSQL("INSERT INTO MYTABLE Values ('Thomson','Allan','CTO');");
        sampleDB.close();
    }

Copy the DB to your SD card

 
    private void exportDB() {
        File mySd = Environment.getExternalStorageDirectory();
        File myData = Environment.getDataDirectory();

        FileChannel src = null;
        FileChannel des = null;
        String currentDBPath = "/data/" + getApplicationContext().getPackageName() + "/databases/MYDEMODB";
        String exportDBPath = "MYDEMODB";

        File currentDB = new File(myData, currentDBPath);
        File backupDB = new File(mySd, exportDBPath);
        try {
            src = new FileInputStream(currentDB).getChannel();
            des = new FileOutputStream(backupDB).getChannel();
            des.transferFrom(src, 0, src.size());
            src.close();
            des.close();
        } catch (IOException e) {
            e.printStackTrace();
        }
    }

After download to your local drive you can use the SQLite Browser to open the file. Very useful data debugging or for apps that collect data and you can’t implement an upload of the data to a server via the internet connection.

SQLite DB Browser

SQLite DB Browser (Structure View)

 

SQLite DB Browser

SQLite DB Browser (Data View)

Hands-On Amazon Echo Dot and Alexa

Amazon Echo, the voice-controlled and hands-free device/speaker was already launched in the US in November 2014, now 2 years later the Echo, and the Echo Dot second generation, is available in Europe. In Germany it was soft-launched in late October on an invitation base at Euro 59.99, the bigger Echo at Euro 179.-.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

Curious enough about having a glimpse into our household and workplace (?) future I requested one and got it delivered last week Friday. At the size of a hockey puck, the device contains 7 microphones, a simple loudspeaker, WLAN and Bluetooth connectivity. No battery, so the Echo must be connected to a USB power adapter at all times. I must admit, the idea of having a “spy” device with microphones permanently listening into my room brings up some privacy concerns, though Amazon claims only the keyword (Alexa, Echo or Amazon) is activating the device, it’s LED ring starts to turn blue, and the spoken commands get transferred to the Amazon cloud, using the Alexa Voice Recognition Service, on which Amazon supposedly spend a 100 million dollars.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

Here a first hands-on experience resume:

Being an Amazon user with a Prime account and already a Kindle and a Fire HD tablet at home, the setup takes less than 5 minutes, inclusive of setting up a WLAN connection from the Alexa App to the device, preparing the WLAN access from the device to your AP and connecting it via Bluetooth to the home theater system. The device is woken up with the keyword or by pressing one of the four buttons on top of it, followed by your question or command.

It does not run a conversational model in the basic use cases, though the skill sets support sessions ! You raise a question or trigger a command, that’s it. It wont ask back (yet). It will respond with the right answer or execute what you have asked for, or respond it if it does not understand you, sometimes it wont do anything at all after activation other than showing the blue ring (maybe due to noisy environment). The basic services available are rather simple or move around the Amazon product landscape, most prominently playing music on demand from the Amazon Prime Music offerings, ordering products from Amazon or responding with the weather info or respond to simple Wikipedia style questions. The power of the device is unfolding with the skill-sets that allow third parties to offer services based on the Alexa services. This can be house-automation, ordering pizzas and other consumer services. Being a regional feature there are about 3,000 skills available in the US but only about 2 dozens in Germany at the time of writing.

My kids had a Sunday afternoon fun time to play with it and trying to fool with it, though at this stage it wears out pretty fast after hearing “I don’t understand your request” and similar responses if you leave its pre-programmed comfort zone (it is interesting to observe how kids approach such a device). Be aware of the Eliza Effect using a device with a synthetic voice and human-like response.

What makes it particularly interesting to me is the evaluation of a completely voice based service and the platforms extensibility through the Alex Skill Set and the API’s that Amazon provides. You find lots of information at the Amazon developer portal and you can even join the Mashup Contest.

In short, right now it is still a toy but with lots of opportunities to come up in the near future. I will look at the potential use cases in a aviation environment, both operational and as passenger and keep you posted.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

While using the Echo I feel a bit like talking to Hal 9000 in the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey” directed by Stanley Kubrick. Echo does not yet have an attitude.