A $125 Million RFID Baggage-tag Plan For Las Vegas

A $125 Million RFID Baggage-tag Plan For Las Vegas.

RFID (radio frequency identification) is a hot market. The Defense Department recently ordered its 23,000 suppliers to use RFID tags on all cases and pallets by January 2005, instantly creating a multi-billion market.

Yesterday, CNET wrote that Wal-Mart plans to spend a whopping $3 billion over the next several years on a new inventory tracking technology that uses radio frequency signals to keep tabs on merchandise.

In the mean time, Computerworld reports that the Las Vegas airport will implement RFID baggage-tag system for a cool $125 million over the next five years.

McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is implementing a baggage-tracking system that will use radio frequency identification (RFID) bag tags from Matrics Inc. to improve customer safety. The decision to implement the tracking system makes McCarran one of the first airports to use the RFID technology airportwide.

As part of the deal, Columbia, Md.-based Matrics will supply the airport with 100 million passive, nonbattery, disposable 900-MHz RFID tags over a five-year period for $25 million, or 25 cents per tag, according to John Shoemaker, vice president of business development at Matrics.

You can look at baggage RFID tags from Matrics in this image library. Here is a picture of one of the RFID chips from Matrics (Credit: Matrics Inc.).

This is not an isolated project. Other airports, including Denver International Airport or Los Angeles International Airport, are also investing in on-line screening with fundings from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). But the Las Vegas effort is the most advanced.

So how will this plan be implemented?

The first phase of McCarran's new system, expected to be operational in May 2004, will automatically track all checked-in passenger bags through in-line explosive detection and screening equipment, according to Shoemaker. Travelers check in about 60,000 bags a day at McCarran.

The process starts at the ticket counter or curbside check-in, where a regular baggage tag with an RFID chip and antenna imbedded in it will be printed out and attached to each bag, he said. Each tag will carry a unique identifier and will be read while the bag is transported on conveyors through the appropriate explosive-screening machine and onto the specific plane. If the bag doesn't clear the explosive-screening machine, it will be sent to a special facility to be checked by hand.

Information from the tags is passed to FKI Logistex's software controls. FKI, based in Danville, Ky., is providing the systems architecture and integration.

One thing is sure. Even if we fear for our privacy, like Bill Machrone, from PC Magazine, in “RFID: Promise and Peril,” RFID is definitively a technology which will have a big impact on our lives in the years to come.

Source: Linda Rosencrance, Computerworld, November 6, 2003, and additional stories from various sources  [Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends]

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