In September, Heathrow Airport will become the largest in Europe to trial RFID-based tags for tracking passenger luggage, comparing accuracy and read rates against their existing barcode-based systems.
Radio Frequency Identification tags are a throw-away technology which can be embedded in the labels attached to luggage on check-in, and then read from a distance of a metre or so (depending on the technology) as the luggage makes its way around the world - sometimes even to the same destination as the passenger.
Using RFID is more expensive than printed labels, but savings should come from being able to automatically read the labels as the bags pass by, and update the information stored on the tag without recourse to a central database.
The International Air Transport Association reckons RFID will save airlines £400m a year, though some of that will be offset by the higher costs.
Heathrow won't be drawn on those costs as yet. The details of technologies and suppliers won't be public until the official launch of the trial in September. ®