RFID baggage tracking cleared for take-off

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RFID baggage tracking cleared for take-off

Dinner in London, breakfast in New York, luggage in the Congo.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has the potential to dramatically streamline and improve airline baggage handling, industry experts predicted today.

Figures from ABI Research suggest that RFID airline baggage tagging will clock up US$11.8 million in sales this year, growing to almost US$27.5 million in 2011.

"One of the barriers to adoption of RFID for airline baggage tagging has been the tag price. Because the tags must be disposable, they must be cheap," said ABI Research analyst Robert Foppiani.

The majority of baggage handling in the US is the domain of the airlines themselves. In contrast, overseas airport operators tend to provide unified baggage handling systems for all the airlines they serve.

This has led to problems over whether airlines or airports should be responsible for RFID investment.

Another obstacle, according to ABI, is the legacy barcode tracking infrastructure used by airlines around the world. While less flexible than RFID, it is "well entrenched and works most of the time".

However, the analyst firm noted that RFID trials exist or are planned in a number of cities, including Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Narita and Qatar.

Air France-KLM is conducting a joint trial at Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Schiphol in Amsterdam, and South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines has run a domestic six-city pilot.

Tags and readers from Symbol Technologies are being used in the majority of these trials, along with RFID chips from Impinj.

Foppiani predicts that specific country markets within Europe and Asia will lead the charge.

"Asia's less efficient barcode systems are ripe for replacement, and Europe has many transit hubs catering to large numbers of inter-flight transfers," he said.
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