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Sydney Airport to Instate RFID Baggage Tags 82

AcidAUS writes "Australia's Sydney Airport is investigating high-tech tagging methods for baggage handling, which could greatly reduce the number of bags that go missing each year. Industry experts say that baggage mishandling costs the industry globally $US1.7 billion each year, and that much of this cost is due to failures in the barcode-based tagging system."
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Sydney Airport To Instate RFID Baggage Tags

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  • Unfortunatly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:39AM (#17046636)
    Unfortunatly, better tagging is not a guarantee that things will go better with baggage. Growing passenger numbers and improved security procedures are the main factors fuelling estimated annual losses of one billion US dollars for the world's airlines in missing and mishandled baggage.
    In almost all cases, baggage IS correcty tagged, but it's as always the human factor which fails to function correctly. Because all security restrictions, the baggage is now in many cases manually examined and the volume of the baggage traffic and personal stress are still the main causes for missing or damaged baggage.
    • Re:Unfortunatly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:26AM (#17046838)
      Sydney Airport taxs/fees/cost per pax are too high - globally they are bottom of benchmark efficiency. They are not providing a service as it is.

      I'll tell those wallys that the existing tags are just as strong, or stronger than any plastic rfid. At 7 cents per sticker vs $1.00 per tag, it sounds like a scam to pass on inflated costs and pocket the difference. Don't see how they will re-cycle used tags, or allow customers to 'register' their own tags.

      It also removes the incentive for on-time planes by rewarding those who don't check in hours early. The number of metal'ish suitcases means they don't work well.

      A study of lost luggage shows that airports do not attempt to find the owners- never more true since CAPS.

      Lets see, added cost, no tangible benefit, risk of tag dropping off and grinding conveyor belts, and no cost benefit transparancy . Give them a dunce hat.
      • Unless I misread TFA, it's 21 cents per RFID tag, which is "ten times" the cost of the barcode.

      • I do not think it is much of stretch to imagine that Macquarie Bank (the owners of Sydney Airport) have their fingers in some RIFD chip pie.

        1) Sydney Airport buys lots of RIFD chips from XXX RIFD supplies, where XXX is owned or invested in by Macquarie Bank
        2) ???^H^H^H Charges airport users for the priviledge of using RIFD chips for baggage handlers
        3) Profit!

        For those who are unaware of Australian businesses, Macquarie Bank has it's finger in just about every single pie you can think of.
    • Re:Unfortunatly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by unPlugged-2.0 ( 947200 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @08:13AM (#17047266) Homepage
      Yes but you see this is exactly what RFID helps with.

      "The Human Factor fails to function correctly"

      This what RFID helps to a certain extent. With the amount of stress the security and baggage personnel have their mistake level has gone up greatly. RFID allows an automated system that prevents this and makes it so they can just focus on their work.

      Though I am very much against RFID in passports. RFID in baggage makes a lot of sense. Just google Delta, RFID and Atlanta to see some case studies where RFID reduced the number of lost baggages and also reduced the amount of processing time it took for a bag. In some cases by 33%.

      This allows less load on airport employees and is actually needed to handle the increased traffic. So like you said growing passenger numbers and security is a concern but unless you are going to add more employees (which face it any compay won't do) you need technology to do it for you.

      In this case the best tech for that is RFID.
      • Though I am very much against RFID in passports. RFID in baggage makes a lot of sense.

        Exactly, because you can remove the RFID tags from the baggage when you're leaving the airport, most of the attacks against passport RFID systems simply don't apply to baggage RFID.

        Now, if baggage companies started embedding RFID tags in my luggage, it would be an entirely different matter.

    • Use an alternative method to get your luggage to your destination. A guaranteed method. I use a company called Sports Express []. I avoid all lines at baggage check and claim since my stuff is waiting for me at my hotel.
    • annual losses of one billion US dollars for the world's airlines in missing and mishandled baggage.

      One thing that passengers can do to limit lost/misplaced/mishandled luggage is to put a sheet with your itinerary in with your checked luggage. Include your name, home address, home phone number, cell number (if you have a cell), your flight number (both out and back) your departure and destination airports, times, where you are staying, and their phone number.

      Going on the presumption that the person

      • ...put a sheet with your itinerary in with your checked luggage. Include your name, home address, home phone number, cell number (if you have a cell), your flight number (both out and back) your departure and destination airports, times, where you are staying, and their phone number.

        Trouble is, the last time a baggage handler went through my checked luggage, it was to steal stuff. In which case, giving them my home address and the dates when the house will be empty is a bit counter-productive.

      • Putting your home address there goes against all the advice that I've ever heard. If a baggage handler steals your bag, they now know when your house is going to be empty. That said, I do put in my hotel details, mobile number and my work address because that way I can still be contacted. I also take a photo of the suitcase on my phone - trying to describe your bag to a foreign lost luggage attendant is much easier that way!
        • Straight from the horses mouth:

          Put a tag on the outside of your baggage with your name, home address, and home and work phone numbers. The airlines provide free stick-on tags. Most carriers also have "privacy tags" which conceal this information from passersby.

          Put the same information inside each bag, and add an address and telephone number where you can be reached at your destination city.

 s.htm []

          If you do a search for 'luggage airline put de

          • That's the advice from the TSA, just after they tell you that they'll break your bag open if they want to. They're kind of biased in what their advice is based on.

            The advice not to put your home address comes from a lot of sources, such as Transport Canada at m [] which says "Label your luggage. Do not use your home address or business title. Luggage tags with flaps that hide your name and address are a smart idea. These steps will help protect your anonymity
    • The Wired article says the 10-15% of printed tags cant be read by scanners or become too smudged or torn for humans. RFID read errors are 3-5%.
    • why not tattoo people's foreheads and give them facialy implanted rfid chip's and be done with it - all this bullshit courtesy of the inside job done on 9-11, 7/7 in london another, spain had it's own - it's all to control people - watchout for controls on the last frontier for free speech ie. the internet. all these so called democratically elected politicians - voted for by the largest minority and not the majority of people - give us proportional representation before it's too late - let the majority hav
  • riiiiiight.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:41AM (#17046642) Homepage
    Industry experts say that baggage mishandling costs the industry globally $US1.7 billion each year, and that much of this cost is due to failures in the barcode-based tagging system. ...and RFID, which is much like barcode except for the (far more insecure) scanning method is supposed to correct the "problem"? I smell an ulterior motive.
    • Re:riiiiiight.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arun_s ( 877518 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:07AM (#17046754) Homepage Journal
      RFID, which is much like barcode except for the (far more insecure) scanning method is supposed to correct the "problem"? I smell an ulterior motive.
      I was just reading Wired's coverage [] of the same news, and there are actually some valid points. From there:
      A scanner can only pick up bar codes that pass directly in front of its laser; wet, folded or smudged tags are often unreadable, and scanners perform especially poorly when exposed to dirt or dust.

      Utilizing radio waves instead of lasers, RFID doesn't require a direct line of sight between the reader and tag, and isn't affected by dirt or dust. RFID tags are generally more weather-resistant than paper labels, and the hardware is compatible with most existing baggage systems.

      It actually sounds alright to me. I'll don my tinfoil hat when they attach it to passengers, but this looks like one place where RFID can be put to good use.
      • Re:riiiiiight.... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ayjay29 ( 144994 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:47AM (#17046938)
        >>It actually sounds alright to me. I'll don my tinfoil hat when they attach it to passengers, but this looks like one place where RFID can be put to good use.

        I agree. With RFID you can route bags to the correct plane, or baggage claim automaticaly. You can flash lights and soundbuzzers if the wrong bag goes the whong way. You can also find the location of bags easily, as the readers cost a couple of hundrad bucks, there's no reason to monitor baggage flow at numerous locations.

        As for your tinfoil hat, does it have a pocket [] about six inches by four?.

        • Re:riiiiiight.... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:53AM (#17046966)
          As for your tinfoil hat, does it have a pocket about six inches by four?.

          I made one. Took tinfoil, Duct tape on one side. Folded it into a sort of envelope. Duct tape on the outside. It is pretty robust in protecting my passport. It prevents scanning and still can be easily taken out when needed.
        • Not only that, but you can put scanners in the baggage hold and know that every bag in the hold is matched to a passenger who has already boarded. Much easier than a barcode reader.

          Also, this summer, I had an experience where they simply turned the carousel off too early; my bag was actually still on the ramp up to the carousel. They had *no idea* where my bag was. With a scanner at the point where it hits the carousel (so the baggage people could say, "It was on the carousel, so someone must have taken it

          • Or more accurately, to know that every RFID tag in the hold is matched to an RFID tag which has already boarded.
            • That's a good clarification of what I said. I'd add, however, that no passenger needs to be tagged; the tag on your luggage is linked to your boarding pass when you check the luggage, so all they have to know is that the boarding pass has been scanned (as the passenger enters the jetway; I suppose an evildoer could exit the jetway without actually boarding the plane, but they do watch for that sort of thing).

      • by AlHunt ( 982887 )
        > I'll don my tinfoil hat when they attach it to passengers, but this looks like one place where RFID can be put to good use.

        At your service: 6125799.html []

        I suggest a fur-lined hat for winter use.
        • by Itsacon ( 967006 )

          I suggest a fur-lined hat for winter use.

          Fur-lined? I think steel wool is much more appropriate...

    • Re:riiiiiight.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sim60 ( 967365 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:08AM (#17046760)
      Industry experts say that baggage mishandling costs the industry globally $US1.7 billion each year, and that much of this cost is due to failures in the barcode-based tagging system.
      ...and RFID, which is much like barcode except for the (far more insecure) scanning method is supposed to correct the "problem"? I smell an ulterior motive.

      In this instance, the lack of 'security' of rfid is one of it's more useful features.

      The system allows a tagged bag to be tracked over it's entire (in airport) journey from check in to luggage hold automaticaly, meaning that many more check points can be used without slowing down the baggage handling, and any luggage in the wrong place can be flagged quickly. It also means that bags cannot 'accidentaly' walk through the wrong door without the tag being removed making stealing luggage a little more difficult.

    • Re:riiiiiight.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaveCar ( 189300 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:22AM (#17046812)
      And how, exactly is it far more insecure? If you can see a barcode you can read all of the information on it. If you are within n metres of an RFID tag you can read all the information on it. It is just a different method to read all of the information (usually just a long string of digits) on the tag. The scanning method is no more, or less secure.

      Now depending on the context you might not want someone to be able to read the information unless they have some privileged status (border guard, checkout assistant) in which case having an RFID tag is rather like having a barcode printed on your forehead. I don't want a barcode printed on my forehead, so I probably don't want an RFID passport, but baggage which has an exposed barcode anyway - what's the difference?

      Now if they don't do something stupid like including your name, address and vital statistics on the tag (which I'm sure they won't as it would cost much more for the increased capacity tag) then it really just means they don't need line of sight to read the tag so that dirty/crumpled/obscured tags won't foul things up. If it is the same information that an arbitrary person could get with a barcode reader as opposed to an RFID reader then it might just well be a better solution.

      I smell an ulterior motive.

      And what would that be? The airline already know *everything* about you which they can glean from your baggage by cross referencing the ID on the barcode with their database. Unless FRID tags can read your mind ... </conspiracytheory>
    • > I smell an ulterior motive.

      Bzzzt, no. Ulterior motives are oderless; posterior motives, on the other hand, have a distinctive scent.

      Sorry, the editor started it. At 5:00 A.M., I felt very vincible when my brain didn't cognize "instate" as a valid word.
  • does that figure include the aggravation suffered when you wait at the baggage claim for a half hour after everyone has left and your bad hasn't shown up yet?

    It happened to me once. I then filed a claim for missing luggage, and they called me 2 hours later saying it went on the wrong flight and to come pick it up (or they could deliver it the next day).

    • by schnooka_boy ( 1023007 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:27AM (#17046848)
      One time I flew with EasyJet from Copenhagen to London. The devices that moved the luggage weren't working, so instead of waiting for them to work they decided to just put us all on the airplane, fly it in into the sky, and THEN tell us our luggage was left in Copenhagen. Thankfully it was the end of my trip, so no big loss. Not so thankful for a group of 4 girls who were just starting their 3 month vacation around Europe and everything they took with them was now gone. They had no place to have the airline send their luggage to either. Goooood times. Unfortunately, I don't think RFID will resolve general douchebaggery.
    • That figure definitely doesn't include never receiving your luggage.

      I went on holiday from London to Egypt, after waiting for every bag to be collected, my luggage was still not present, however there was a bag with my luggage tag present (it really wasn't mine). I got the Sharm El-Sheik airport worker to write an incident report and telex London to find out where my bag actually was. The next day (after I had hastily tried to get some clothes) I was phoned by the holiday reps to come back to Sharm airport
  • by Ixlr8 ( 63315 ) <L.Mol@ewi.tude[ ].nl ['lft' in gap]> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:59AM (#17046718) Homepage
    KLM and Air France are already running a pilot project (pun not intended) on their service between Paris and Amsterdam. (See for example 0/1/1/ [] or go google yourself)
    • by linuxci ( 3530 ) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:36AM (#17046876)
      KLM also has supposedly the worst record of losing luggage in Europe that's why they introduced RFID in order to improve this (one of the reasons they had such a bad record was that they have a lot more people transferring through Amsterdam rather than using it as a start or end point). However, despite that, I've flown KLM on average twice a month for the past two years and my luggage always arrives. I've even tried short connections and awkward routings and my luggage has still arrived fine. I feel ripped off, my Amex card has excellent luggage loss protection (£750 if gone missing for at least 6 hours plus a further £1000 is it's lost []) - my luggage goes missing and I have loads to spend on new clothes. Damn you KLM, you're supposed to be the worst in Europe for baggage handling but not once do you lose my luggage, not a nice way to reward my frequent travelling :(
      • by Ixlr8 ( 63315 )
        Well it's not supposed to be a lottery, you see. And I think that's what you want it to be.

        1. Pay insurance fee via credit card.
        2. Be the one whose luggage has gone missing in KLM's price drawing.
        3. Get rich!

        Hey, wait this three-steps-thingy is actually complete?! :-)
      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        The one time my luggage got "lost" in transit, the airline quickly found it and put it on an alternative flight to an airport that was actually closer to my home than the one I'd flown into. The result was I didn't have to carry my luggage home, and it was couriered to my doorstep within about half an hour of me arriving home. I suspect that the vast majority of "lost luggage" cases end up like this (maybe a bit more delay before the passenger gets their luggage, admittedly), and luggage actually going miss
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jimicus ( 737525 )
          the fact that they can probably claim back everything from the airline anyway

          Not true. The Warsaw Convention [] strongly limits the amount airlines are obliged to pay for lost baggage.
          • by jrumney ( 197329 )
            My understanding is the Warsaw Convention protects the airline against liability due to factors outside their control. But when loss is caused by negligence on their part, their liability is unlimited.
            • by jimicus ( 737525 )
              Keyword here is "airline". If it was the airport rather than the airline (or they can introduce doubt into the matter such that it /may/ have been), then you're back to 17 SDR/kilo (which equates to £/$hardly anything)

              I suspect the "unlimited liability in the event of negligence" is probably more to do with passenger safety - the airline industry's very heavily regulated, and if negligence caused a plane crash there would be serious head-rolling.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bob54321 ( 911744 )
      They need to do something at that airport. I have been there several times on a variety of airlines and only once got my baggage on the day I arrived. The lines of people wanting to make a claim are always enormous.
  • There ARE good uses of technology.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Looks to me like they have not investigated properly what is causing the problem. Only if missing or unreadable bar codes are the cause this can be of any help, and even then it surely is not the only solution. My guess is that they are simply throwing technology (and thus money) to the problem. This is OK if you're sure it will work, but in this case I think the chances of making it worse (read, more money lost) are big.

    On the other hand, what I would like to see is a system that allows *me* to track my ba
  • The Government has announced the implementation of new barcoding technology that reduce the amount of missing persons in Australia, unless of course they are meant to "disappear". Take that extremists!
  • Couriers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by darkitecture ( 627408 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @07:06AM (#17047018)

    How about using RFID tags on fucking FedEx, UPS and DHL deliveries? The current system is so illogical and antiquated, it's ludicrous. God knows how many times I've checked in on an item only to find the page hasn't been updated for four days. Sure, sometimes it works (I had updates about three times a day when tracking an item from Manhattan to Osaka using FedEx, that was nice) but most of the time it fails horribly and you come to know the tracking number as merely a "Reference Number For When The Package Goes Missing Or Gets Delayed"...

  • by giuntag ( 833437 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @07:16AM (#17047048) Homepage
    Airports have been experimenting with this since at least 2001, and many are using it in production.

    Contrary to what some posters assumed, rfid DOES in fact help quite a bit the baggage handling system:

    - rfid reader can read tags which sit on the bottom / opposite end of the suitcase, while barcode readers cannot do it. The overall positive-read ratio is much increased. The tags are smaller and less prone to tear-off/smearing of the barcode print

    - rfid card readers can read many tags at a time, hence the conveyor line can be sped up a lot (as in: put all baggages on the truck to the runaway, and the rfid reader is put on top of the gate below which the truck passes)

    - if the complete baggage info, such as final destination, status of x-ray-check, etc is stored on the tag (there are quite a few bytes in there), any tag reader can decode it and sort the baggage even in the absence of network connection , ie . without interrogating a central db. Smaller devices, not even wifi-connected, can be used to recover info from baggages that are found stray in any airside area (and a working 802.11 inside a bhs system or covering a complete runaway is radio nightmare,trust me).
    Downside: if that info is not crypted, it could be eavesdropped...

    Of course, the point is still valid that all the new anti-terrorism measures are quite a nightmare for airports and airline handlers, and have a great impact on operative efficiency.
  • If you have ever been through immigration and customs at Kingsford Smith, you will know it is pretty thorough (xray, an entire army of baggage troops to go through your luggage on random searches let alone the sniffer dogs). I am guessing people smuggle things back in, then panic, remove the barcode tag and claim they lost their luggage. I bet this is a security messure to catch the people who bring the luggage into the country.

    Just a thought.
  • I have had a lot to do with the baggage handling system at Sydney Airport (SACL T1 & T2) having worked at both these terminals as a control systems engineer in the last few years.

    I can confidently say this will have bugger all effect. The scanning rates on the primary infeed scanners are already over 96%, we have secondary scanner that achieve 80+% (they are dealing with the bags that could not be read first time through) and manual enconding stations at the third level. So the chances of miss-reading
  • you fill your suitcase with RFID tags?
  • having to wear an RFID necklace or bracelet once inside an airport if it mean that I never had to hear this announcement for my flight again:

    Paging Mr. and Mrs. Idiot who are still shopping or sitting at a bar, your flight is now fully boarded with the exception of you. You are holding up the plane, and we are about to have to remove your luggage. This will cause considerable delay to the other passengers who know how to GET TO THE FUCKING GATE ON TIME !
  • I've never understood this hate of RFID on slashdot. We've used RFID in our organization where once we had to manually scan individual items. We save A LOT of time, it's just as accurate, and the system was fairly inexpensive to implement. We're not talking about putting these things in people here... we're talking about solving real world issues with a technology that was designed for that purpose.
    • by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      I don't think people hate RFID as much as the idiots that hyped it to hell. As I work in the packaging industry, I actually got shill magazines that existed for the sole purpose of pushing RFID, yet they pretended to be real technology magazines.

      There have been billions and billions spent marketing RFID for things it never was suited for. We hate the misapplication of technology, and this marketing machine behind RFID has caused it to be applied in many places it never should have been. Kinda like Java o
    • Same reason people hate nuclear power: they don't understand it.
  • by Urban Garlic ( 447282 ) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @10:01AM (#17048226)
    I got a lesson about the baggage bar-code system a few years ago. I was flying from Calgary to Washington DC via Toronto -- you have to retrieve your bags in Toronto so you can clear US customs in Canada, plus there's extra security for Washington-bound flights (special secure gate, mandatory hand-search of carryons, baggage matching), so if the bags don't show, you miss your connection.

    Well, my bag didn't show. I asked the clerks to check the computer and find out where it was, and they said they couldn't. I eventually pressed them as to why, suggesting that the bar codes might be useful, and they said the bar codes were not actually ever scanned. Now, that may have been true, or they may have been trying to get rid of a pestering customer, but it was clear in any case that the computer did not know where my bag was. They could not even confirm that it had been loaded on the flight out of Calgary. They had no idea at all.

    As it turned out, it had been mistakenly directed to the domestic arrivals carousel instead of the US connections carousel, and I was able to retrieve it and go on my way.

    I would love it if some kind of actually-useful, actually-used baggage tracking system were implemented.
    • Yeah, I can confirm that this is the case. The bags may be scanned for sorting purposes, but that scan doesn't seem to be connected back to a tracking database. I had a big argument with someone several levels up in United about this. United's stance was that they are NOT in the luggage shipping business, they are in the people moving business. Luggage is an "oh yeah, I guess we have to take your luggage too" category rather than being equally important.

      I no longer fly United. In my opinion, (and I do a fai
  • "failures in the barcode-based tagging system."

    It's called "stealing the baggage". It's been going on for decades. Organized crime has had a hand in it for as long. I once saw my zip up bag coming down the carosel opened wide and spilling clothes down the conveyor. That was a looonnng zipper; took some doing to get that open. The asshats unloading the plane were looking for a quick uptick in their personal monetary portfolio.
  • I just hope whatever gets introduced WORKS.

    I once flew from Cairns to Sydney, and my luggage flew from Cairns to Alice Springs. Took over 24 hours for QANTAS to locate and return my luggage, and when the guy did deliver it to me, he abused me, as though my luggage loss was my fault. I personally don't want to go through the experience again, as my medication was with my luggage.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant