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February 21, 2008

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RFID technology to help track bags at Heathrow

Run by airport operator BAA, the GB pound 150,000 scheme hopes to cut the amount of luggage lost as it makes its way through the airport.

Around 300,000 bags will be tracked by the Dubai-based airline, Emirates, over the six-month trial, as it pits RFID technology against the present barcode system.

“This is about embracing the latest technology for the benefit of our customers,” said Dale Griffith, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president, airport services.

“Previous RFID trials by other parties on a smaller scale have shown that the technology almost eliminates scanner ‘misreads’, significantly improving the efficiency of the baggage system and customer experience.

“We are now applying this on a much larger scale at three major airport hubs, including Emirates’ Dubai home-base, thus allowing the trials to include most possible baggage handling scenarios, including international transit.”

RFID scanners have already been installed at some Emirates check-in desks, and passengers’ bags will be tagged as part of the usual check-in process. The tags, which contain a unique bag number and route, will also feature the traditional barcode.

Stephen Challis of BAA said the trial could “significantly improve” efficiency at Heathrow.

In the future, RFID technology could make it possible for airlines to send a text message to passengers, alerting them the moment their luggage arrives on the baggage carousel.

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