Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lost

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!