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RFID Baggage Tagging Taking Off in the UK

London's Heathrow Airport, one of the world's largest and busiest, is set to begin an RFID baggage tracking trial later this year. The trial will see RFID printers deployed at check-in desks, where bags will be tagged before being scanned as they enter into the handling system.
Tags: Aerospace
Jul 05, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 5, 2007—London's Heathrow Airport, one of the world's largest and busiest, is set to begin an RFID baggage tracking trial later this year, according to vnunet.com. The trial will see RFID printers deployed at check-in desks, where bags will be tagged before being scanned as they enter into the handling system.

BAA, the airport operator corporation that will install the infrastructure, will pay close attention to the read rates of RFID versus those of the existing bar code infrastructure. "This will allow us to compare the success rate of RFID technology against our existing system," a BAA spokeswoman was quoted.

Peter Harrop of British research firm IDTechEx observed that the trial is a positive sign for wider RFID baggage tracking adoption in that it represents endorsement by a high-profile international airport and could induce others to follow suit. "If the biggest airport involved can prove the financial case," he said, "others will follow." The converse might also be true, which means that a lot is riding on Heathrow's successful implementation of the technology. If it proves unsuccessful, other airports might decide that since Heathrow cannot achieve a business case, neither can they.

Harrop also stated that baggage tracking deployments should be funded by the airports and not the airlines because airports are more financially stable than airlines. The question of who foots the bill -- airlines or airports -- has proved a barrier to wider adoption of the technology, ABI Research analyst Robert Foppiani told RFID Update in an interview last October. The fact that airport operator BAA is installing the infrastructure at Heathrow is consistent with the European practice of airport operators undertaking the responsibility; in the US, Foppiani indicated that it is more typically the airlines.

In further evidence of the UK airport industry's interest in RFID, Manchester Airport wrapped up a six-month passenger tracking trial in April (see UK's Manchester Airport to Track Travelers with RFID). The airport used RFID tags to track 50,000 passenger volunteers as they moved throughout the facility with the goal of measuring and improving the efficiency of airport operations. If the trial is ultimately deemed a success, similar ones will be deployed at other airports around the UK, including Heathrow.
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