RFID Keeps Track of Baggage


Air travel is a fact of life for many people. Whether they’re traveling for business, to visit relatives, or simply for fun, people are taking to the air, and they are hoping for a good travel experience.

As more airports spring up around the world, the competition is increasing for passengers. Airports are employing connected technology such as RFID to make transiting through the facility faster and easier. If a business traveler can get through an airport with little hassle—and without losing a bag—she may be more likely to use that airport again in the future. In addition to RFID for baggage handling, airports are also looking to NFC (near-field communication) for services such as ticketing and purchases.

The topic of connected technology for airports was covered in depth in the July/August issue of Connected World magazine. The idea of the aerotropolis is key to the future of airports, and the article detailed the concept, which is essentially an airport that functions much like a self-contained city.  Connected technology makes it possible for large numbers of people to transit the airport and the surrounding area efficiently.

Technology rollouts are happening at airports around the world. New connected technology installed at McCarran Intl. Airport in Las Vegas aims to make flying easier and more efficient. On June 27, McCarran officially opened its new international section of Terminal 3. The terminal is equipped with Gen2 RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology for its baggage tracking system. The system represents a major installation of Gen2 RFID, which is a standard for RFID that has been ratified by EPCGlobal, www.gs1.org, a nonprofit standards body.

In the McCarran system, an RFID chip is embedded into each bag tag produced for all of the airlines. This tag emits a unique signature, and sensors can detect this signature to locate the tagged bag. The baggage handling system that incorporates this RFID technology is being supplied by Vanderlande Industries, www.vanderlande.com, a company that provides baggage and materials handling solutions. Vanderlande also worked with Alliant Technologies, www.atcss.com, to design and develop the controls for the McCarran system.

According to Vanderlande, while regular bar code tags may be misread, RFID tags can achieve read rates of 99%, which allows the airport to more easily make sure all bags arrive at their correct destination. Workers can locate misplaced bags, check the status of luggage, and organize it for loading. Fewer lost bags means happier customers, but it also saves money for the airlines.

Overall, the baggage handling system for Terminal 3 includes 55 RFID readers. The design and installation started in 2008, and Vanderlande says the system was tested by processing more than 500,000 bags.

Travelers should expect to see RFID and other technologies popping up at more airports in the near future. The idea of a connected airport-city may prove a reality.

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Connected World Issue
June/July 2014
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