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If you travel often through Schiphol, soon you’ll be able to check in your luggage must faster. In 2002, Erik Harkes invented an electronic luggage tag as an alternative to the traditional paper label. Seven years later, his vision has become possible. But it took another six years to perfect the system for the DS bagtag.
Soon, frequent flyers can travel with the DS bagtag. In late 2016 the company DS Tags was used by pilots from various airlines. The DS Bagtag is a reusable smartcard with integrated display that is easy to attach to each case. It works in combination with a special app that lets you check your luggage from home or your office before you go to the airport. Your flight details automatically appear on the electronic label. It takes just 15 seconds to complete your check in at the airport
Erik Harkes, CEO and founder of DS Tags, remembers 2002 well. ‘I suddenly sat up in my bed,’ he says. ‘I was Product Manager E-services at KLM, where I worked on a new version of Internet check-ins. I realised that the process could be more efficient if you could check-in your luggage at home. An electronic luggage tag seemed the ideal solution.’ It was a nice idea, but technology needed to catch up first. ‘It took five years before the iPhone was launched and seven years before e-readers hit the market. The makers of displays were not yet ready.’
Harkes juggled his time. During the day he was busy with his career in aviation in at night he was looking for partners who could help develop his idea. ‘In 2009 I made the first prototypes. It was a process of trial and error, but two years later I knew it was time to go full speed.’ He gave up his day job and wrote a business plan from the office in his garage, found investors and perfected his system.
‘The DS Bagtag is only part of the solution for paperless travel. But in an efficient travel process, comfort for the traveler is a consideration every second. I'm proud of it. The tag is nicely designed, is waterproof, robust and barely uses any power. It doesn’t need to be charged and will last at least five years. And just think how much paper this can save on a large scale,’ he says passionately. ‘Most important is the security of the software solution. I know how aviation works. Each solution hinges on security. DS Bagtags are secure from start to finish. That is our unique selling point. In addition, the system is also saves errors.’
In 2015 Harkes traded his home office for an office in The Base at Schiphol Central Business District. "As a start-up in the aviation industry, we wanted to give our airline customers the right impression. Everyone knows Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Major parties we work with here offices and as our international contacts are traveling, they often use Schiphol as a regular stop-over. For us, it’s the perfect place to have face-to-face contact with customers.’
Harkes expects 2017 to be a year of growth for his company. "This fall, we are running a pilot with 'launching customers,’ Then we will launch the rollout. The beauty of our solution is that it is not tied to one company or one airport. It is a solution for everyone, everywhere.’