Erik Harkes, CEO and founder of DS Tags, was well ahead of his time. In 2002 he came up with the ultimate solution for paperless travel: a reusable smartcard with an integrated baggage display. It took seven years before the technology was available to turn his vision into reality, and another six to perfect the system. ‘But now the time has come: 2016 is going to be our year.’
Watch the interview with Erik Harkes, CEO of DS Tags.
It looks like DS Tags will commence pilot studies in cooperation with leading airlines at the end of this year. Frequent flyers will be able to travel with the DS Bagtag, an electronic baggage label that can easily be attached to any bag. Using a special app, passengers will be able to check their bags online and make updates if necessary at home or the office, thus eliminating the need to print out a baggage label and attach it to their bag at the airport. The data will automatically appear on the electronic label. Airport check-in will be reduced to no more than 15 seconds. Furthermore, the system is more secure and less prone to error, according to DS Tags.
From iPhones to the DS Bagtag
For Harkes, this is a new beginning. He had already come up with the solution in 2002. ‘Suddenly, I bolted upright in bed’, he says. ‘My job title at the time was E-services product manager for KLM, where I was working on a new version of Internet check-in. I saw that the process would be more efficient if you could check your bags online. To me, a gadget with a display that could be updated electronically seemed like the ideal solution.’ A great idea, but the technology was still a long way off. ‘That was five years before the introduction of the iPhone, and seven years before e-readers arrived on the market. Screen manufacturers were nowhere near ready for this.’
Harkes refused to give up. During the day, he was busy with his career in aviation; outside the office he continued looking for partners who could realise his idea. ‘I was able to get the first prototypes made in 2009. It was a process of failing and trying again, but two years later I knew for sure: now is the time to really go for it.’
Safe, fast and sustainable
He quit his job and, working from an office over his garage, drew up a business plan, landed investors and perfected his system. ‘The DS Bagtag is only one part of the paperless travel solution. But when you’re striving for an efficient travel process and passenger comfort, every second counts. I’m proud of it. The tag looks good, it’s waterproof, sturdy and uses very little energy. There is no need for recharging. It lasts at least five years. Moreover, just think of how much paper this can save you on a large scale.’ ‘The software solution’s security is even more important. I know how the aviation sector works. Security makes or breaks every new solution. Our solution is secure from start to finish. This is our unique selling point.’
Harkes traded his home office for an office at The Base in the Schiphol Central Business District a year ago. ‘As a start-up in the aviation industry, we were keen to present the right image to our airline clients. Everyone knows Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Almost all of the key partners with whom we work have an office here, and our international contacts often have a stop-over at the airport when they are travelling. For us it’s the perfect moment for some face-to-contact.’
Sweeping the world
Harkes expects 2016 will be the growth year for his company. ‘We’re conducting a pilot with launching customers this autumn. After that will be the rollout. The great thing about our solution is that it isn’t restricted to a single airline or airport. It’s a solution for everyone, all over the world.’