Air Transport World

Breaker, breaker: 'This is your luggage calling'.

Thanks to microchip technology and RF, passenger bags may sort themselves soon

Traditional airline industry baggage identification, using bar codes and laser barcode readers, could become a thing of the past if experiments taking place here prove successful.

The trials, being watched closely by several other big carriers, FAA and IATA, are being hosted by British Airways. Instead of being printed with bar codes, each paper baggage label has embedded into it an antenna and a pinhead-size silicon chip that gives out a radio signal over a range of around 1 m. Each signal identifies the station from which the bag has come. This is picked up by a receiver in the baggage-sorting area of the destination airport and the sorting system is programmed to switch each bag to the correct location.

Major advantage hoped for from the new system is its ability--because of the signal the tags transmit--to "read" every bag, whether it is turned upside down or hidden under others, situations with which laser bar-code readers are not always able to cope. …

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