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feb 25

Radio-tagging luggage at Heathrow

You sprinted to the gate and just caught that connecting flight. But did your baggage come with? London Heathrow's six-month trial of radio-tagging technology could turn such fears of lost luggage into an inconvenience of the past.

Nine Emirates counters at Heathrow will use radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, equipped with silicon chips and antennas, to encode a passenger's name and route. The tags will track 50,000 bags each month on flights traveling to and from Dubai via Heathrow. If all goes as planned, the wireless technology will read bags with an accuracy of 95 to 99 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association.

For passengers, the technology will increase reliability. While traditional baggage tags can crease or become wet in transit, the less damage-prone radio tags won't rely on barcodes or line of sight. (With traditional tags, the barcodes need to be upright so that the scanners can read them; the chips don't have this problem because they are read wirelessly.)

The wireless technology can read hundreds of tags per second and nearly eliminates misreads—upping the chances of a bag making even a tight connection. (According to SITA, about 94,000 bags across the world were mishandled every day last year).

Although only a handful of airports across the world currently use RFID (Hong Kong was the first to do so in 2005), the technology could be enhanced to include more extensive route details if proven successful. What does that mean for us? In a couple years, you may not have to worry about buying a new set of underwear after making a tight connecting flight. Ah, technology.

Do you think RDIF tags will help you from losing your luggage in transit?

RELATED Heathrow rolls out eye scanners, Pod hotel lands at Heathrow, and Heathrow changing its weird one-bag rule.

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB Vagabondish blogs about the RFID technology for luggage.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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