Thursday, November 20, 2008


One of the most exciting innovations coming the way of frequent flyers is Motorola’s RFID technology. The initials stand for Radio Frequency Identification, which will put an end to the frustrations caused by the ever increasing lost baggage syndrome. My bags have disappeared twice this year (although they did catch up with me a few days later). Both times were the result of the incredible stress airlines and airports are under as they constantly reduce headcount and costs to stay afloat. Last year more than 34 million bags were lost or mishandled worldwide. And I was that soldier. Now Motorola have invented a tracking system where a small chip is embedded in each bag tag. The chip picks up radio waves emitted by the RFID at different points on the belt, sending a message saying “Here I Am.” The read rate is currently 99.5% vs. 80% for optical scanners. This is where the problem starts. If a bag isn’t read, then it’s handled manually and good luck and godspeed. The system has been tested at Las Vegas which processes around 70,000 pieces of baggage a day. Using RFID, the airport only had to manually handle 350 bags with no losses. I understand Air New Zealand are in the vanguard of this development. Bring it on!


Piotr Jakubowski said...

It is remarkable that these bags usually find their home eventually. Though the stress of not having your things can be excruciating. Good thing most airlines have a lost luggage allowance - except they don't tell you about it and you have to ask yourself.

Have you ever wondered where that bag went if unclaimed? -

Iconic said...

RFID tags is the future. I've been watching its development for at least 2 years now and it has HUGE utility. Imagine going shopping and never having to load your shopping on the counter to be scanned. You simply walk your trolley through a scanner and everything gets automatically scanned. In a couple seconds, your shopping is processed. The user has less wait in lines and faster processing times and the store reduces shrinkage because an alarm will sound if things are not paid for and the system will automatically update its database/stock-levels with what's left on the shelves. Hence, it will know in an instant what's been sold and what to order. Imagine just-in-time systems? they become more efficient again. The only issue with any technology that is security. What would happen if you somehow to found a way burn the circuits of the RFID chips?

Chris Simon said...

The power of RFID has been leveraged to optimize so many worthwhile things. User targeted advertising in Tokyo comes to mind, where they really bring it on. Shoppers make purchase decisions through many combinations of wireless transmitters, infrared and RFID tags. Saatchi themselves have mastered many RFID type activated billboards. I think radio frequency ID or technology like it is with us forever more. I’m just off to the UK, where with the help of RFID enabled wristbands and cameras, you can create personalized videos of your day out at amusement parks. I would love it with branded entertainment if I could put myself in it, a bit like a computer game. Imagine walking by a high art scene on some billboard or being at a great cinema experience. Hidden cameras scattered about could connect with you and your phone and you could choose your favourite memories of footage-with you blended in-complete with effects, music, slow motion…The works. Wish I had one of those baggage tags you were talking about. CUL8R.

Amruta said...

I have experienced the frustration of losing your baggage, albeit for a very short time, not too long ago. I totally agree that this technology can do so much to reduce frustration and save time and energy.
But, in my opinion, there can be serious privacy issues with this technology. According to what I have read, with RIFD technology, each item will have an individual bar code that can be tied to the purchaser of that item. The bar code will have all the information that a normal bar code will have and plus other information like what card you used to purchase it, your name, your address and so on. Therefore, anybody with a reader will be able to your personal information.
I think it would be better if this technology is refined a bit and made more secure before it is used on a regular basis.