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ODIN Forecasts Fast ROI for RFID-based Baggage Handling

In a new report, ODIN Technologies found that six EPC Gen 2 UHF tags had a 100 percent read rate in baggage-tracking tests, and that airlines and airports could recoup their RFID deployment costs within 18 months.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 10, 2009RFID solutions and services provider ODIN Technologies' newly published "RFID Baggage Tag Benchmark" report estimates that airlines and airports that deploy EPC Gen 2 RFID technology can recoup their deployment costs within 18 months. The study found that six of the tested tag models demonstrated a read rate of 100 percent in an airport setting with the baggage conveyor turned up to full speed—approximately 240 feet per minute—and that the tags can do so across the ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) spectrum, from 860 to 960 MHz.

Based on those results, says Patrick J. Sweeney II, ODIN Technologies' founder and CEO, a typical airport or airline could effectively track luggage on international flights through Europe, North America and Asia using a single tag. In addition, ODIN's researchers calculated the typical cost of building an RFID infrastructure for an airport or airline, used an approximation of the number of bags that are mishandled or lost due to missed reads of bar-coded luggage labels, and averaged the cost related to those mishandlings. Based on those figures, the team calculated the end users' return on investment (ROI).

Patrick J. Sweeney II, ODIN Technologies' founder and CEO
The study, sponsored by Siemens, began in summer 2009 and ended in November, and was divided into two phases, according to Chetan Karani, ODIN's lead RF engineer. For the first phase, the company studied 13 different EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tag models in its lab. In this case, researchers tested the read rate across the range of UHF frequencies used for RFID in Europe, Asia and North America, and also tested the best inlay designs.

The study then followed up at an unnamed airport with the six most effective tags, examining how well the tags could be read using interrogators from two manufacturers. Tags were placed on baggage composed of one of three types of material—soft fabric, hard plastic and metal. Although Sweeney declines to identify the specific tag models, or their manufacturers, he says the six most highly effective tags (used in the second phase of the research) all contained either the UCode G2XM or G2XL RFID chip made by NXP Semiconductors, the Monza 2 or Monza 3 chip from Impinj, or Alien Technology's Higgs-3 chip.

The study was a follow-up to scientific testing ODIN provided to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline trade group, regarding RFID airline baggage tagging. When that research concluded earlier this year, Sweeney says, American airports and airlines requested that a further study be conducted on RFID tagging for luggage shipped internationally. Those airports and airlines are interested in taking advantage of U.S. stimulus money and funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for a better baggage-handling solution. When the results of the IATA study were released, he states, it "generated a lot of interest from U.S. based airports and airlines."

Based on the results of those tests, IATA chose three RFID inlay suppliers that it says met the operational requirements of the group's airline baggage-tagging tender (essentially, a request for proposal, or RFP): UPM Raflatac, Avery Dennison, and Alien Technology (see RFID News Roundup: Three Tag Makers, Including UPM Raflatac, Selected by IATA for Airline Baggage Tagging).

"This is an extension of that study," Sweeney says, in which ODIN is testing existing commercially available baggage-handling tags for effectiveness with different bandwidths.

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