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Lisbon Airport Ups Throughput With RFID Baggage System

The system is not backed up by bar-coding technology, making the airport among the first in the world to rely solely on RFID for tracking transfer bags.
By Rhea Wessel
If a bag needs to be tagged, it is sent to a so-called manual encoding station (MES), where a worker reads the flight information and serial number from the bag's bar-coded luggage tag, then writes it onto an RFID tag using a handheld RFID interrogator.

If a worker cannot read the existing bar-code label and write the information to an RFID tag, he or she manually enters the data into the RFID system, which then moves the bag toward the proper chute for the correct flight.

As the luggage travels along belts that move it through the terminal, the bags' tags are read at six baggage junctions within that terminal. According to Miranda, the system enables Lisbon Airport to divert bags as needed, based on the requirements of security officials. Lisbon airport relies on interrogator antennas provided by Times-7 RFID, a company based in New Zealand. Antony Dixon, Times-7's CEO, says the challenge for RFID technology in a baggage-handling environment is to optimize the field size, or read zone, without using expensive RF shielding and large enclosures. Dixon says Times-7 patented antenna technology provides high performance in a very low profile design and brings important innovations to the challenges of baggage handling.

The airport and its partners fine-tuned the RFID system in 2009, Miranda notes, so the average time to process a transfer bag is now approximately 10 minutes with RFID, with the quantity of baggage-handling errors reduced by as much as 50 percent. Previously, the process could take 30 minutes or more.

Lisbon Airport relies on Bartsch International baggage tags containing UPM Raflatac's ShortDipole EPC Gen 2 inlays made with Impinj's Monza 3 RFID chips.

Ida Wetche, the marketing manager of Lyngsoe's airport division, says minimal training was required for airport workers, since the system does not include any new user interfaces for employees to learn.

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