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Heathrow Evaluates RFID Baggage Cart Tracking Test

The three-month project consisted of a UHF RFID solution from Vero Solutions, using the technology company's software and Impinj readers to track when baggage carts enter and depart a baggage claim area, to make cart management more visible.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 21, 2018

London's Heathrow Airport is evaluating the results of a three-month proof-of-concept (POC) involving the use of radio frequency identification technology from Vero Solutions to track its luggage carts [trolleys] as they arrive at and leave a baggage-claim area at one of its terminals. The pilot—which ran from October 2017 through January of this year—was intended to determine how well technology can track the numbers of carts, and thereby ensure they are available for passengers when they are needed, as well as to better understand how many were onsite at any given time.

Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world in terms of international flights (its flights go to 84 countries). It is those international flights, as well as many domestic ones, that generate a high volume of luggage, along with the need for passengers to transport those bags. The airport's Innovation Team, which managed the RFID pilot, has found that the technology was effective in capturing the movements of carts into and out of the baggage-claim area, and it is now researching how an airport-wide solution might work.

The Innovation Team is tasked with testing new technology options for solving problems at Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports. The group takes a systematic approach to testing the technology in practice before planning full-scale deployments, according to Ben Wagenaar, an innovation technologist at the airport. Any technology, he says, must solve an ongoing business challenge, in order to have a place at the airport.

The airport's Trolley Operations Team consists of personnel tasked with walking around the areas in which carts collect, including parking lots, and returning them to the places where they are needed—namely, the arrivals and baggage-claims areas. They also deliver carts requiring repair to a staging area, where they are then sent to a third-party provider that services the carts. On occasion, carts run out when passengers need them.

In general, Wagenaar says, the Trolley Operations Team is highly efficient at its work. They did not need to track the carts as they moved around the airport, he notes, as much as they needed to know how many they had on hand—especially in the areas in which they are needed most by passengers. "They're brilliant at finding the trolleys, he states. "They have a good system," but lacked visibility.

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