RFID for Luggage: Coming To An Airport Near You?

Most people have a story of an airline losing their luggage. For me, it was en route to Thailand, and I was forced to spend a couple of days wearing my travelling companion’s clothing — too bad she’s about half my size. Luckily, I was prepared and brought a toothbrush, deodorant, some soap and most importantly, an clean pair of underwear with me in my carry-on.

A newish technology is being integrated into a number of airports, and is already in operation at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, as well as the Hong Kong International Airport. It’s called RFID — radio frequency identification — and it is embedded into luggage tags.

RFID works much more effectively than the current tracking device, bar codes. And while with bar codes, baggage handlers have to manually search for a bag, RFID allows them to track down the bag’s exact location. So far at McCarran, the technology has 99% accuracy in it’s read rate — the 1% being tags that are unreadable because they’ve slip under the bag handle. It’s relatively cheap too — $0.15 per tag, compared to $1.80 in 1997.

Expect to see this technology at Airports in Paris, Amsterdam, Milan and San Francisco, among others.