Luggage Tag Has A Whole New Meaning

Airport deploys RFID to ensure bags go through all security checkpoints
Radio-frequency identification deployments are often touted for their potential to save companies millions of dollars in supply-chain costs. McCarran International Airport's RFID deployment could save lives.

The Las Vegas airport last week said it has signed a five-year contract with Matrics Inc. to buy 100 million RFID tags for $25 million to ensure that all baggage has been through the airport's explosive-detection and screening equipment. The tags--disposable, passive tags similar to those Wal-Mart is using in its RFID initiative (see story, p. 28)--will be printed by ticket agents and attached to passenger bags at ticket counters. Each tag will contain a unique number, as well as passenger information. As the bags move through the system and are scanned by RFID readers, baggage information will be updated in an Oracle database.

The airport moves on average 60,000 bags a day. Conventional bar-code systems now used to scan them aren't as reliable as the airport would like. "RFID is the only technology that allows us to get a 99.5%-plus valid-read rate" that bags have been through all checkpoints, says Samuel Ingalls, the airport's information-systems manager. Plus it will help ensure that bags aren't misrouted.

The RFID implementation is being done in conjunction with a $125 million project to put in new baggage conveyors, security equipment, and more. The Transportation Security Administration will pay $95 million of that tab. There's a separate contract with FKI Logistex for systems integration.

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