Heathrow Launches RFID Trial to Track Luggage

The U.K.'s busiest airport is starting to affix radio chips to the luggage of passengers as part of an experiment aimed at reducing lost bags.

The six-month trial will involve tagging around 50,000 bags a month with RFID (radio frequency identification tags) for passengers traveling or transferring on Emirates Airline between Dubai and Heathrow, said BAA, the company that runs the airport.

Barcode tags are currently used, but the barcodes can be misread by scanners, especially if the tags are wet or creased. Those problems increase costs for BAA and the airlines, as well aggravating passengers with slower baggage handling.

The RFID tags, which will be attached by staff at nine specially-equipped Emirates check-in desks, will be encoded the passenger's name and route. Higher-capacity chips could contain more data but won't be used for this trial, BAA said. Barcodes will still be used with the RFID tags.

The RFID chips can be read by scanning equipment from a short distance away as the luggage passes through Heathrow's baggage system. Once at their destination, some passengers will receive a text message on their mobile phone informing of the baggage reclaim belt, BAA said.

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