Reports of Delta investing in new technology with the goal of reducing lost and delayed luggage has travelers and experts wondering how effective the technology is, and if other airlines will follow.
Delta’s new tracking system uses “radio-frequency identification” (RFID) technology to make sure every bag gets to the right destination, by scanning all bags through different points of the airports.
You might be wondering that this RFID technology is. Well, an RFID device is basically the same as a bar-code, or as the magnetic strip on the back of a credit card or ATM card: it provides a unique identifier for that object through radio-frequencies. The advantage over the bar-codes that Airlines have been using is that it can be scanned much easier with the RFID scanners, and it can be automated as well.
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According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, Delta handled about 120 million checked suitcases in 2015. Lost luggage has long been a nightmare scenario for travelers, but now that luggage fees have become standard (Delta charges a $25 per bag for domestic flights), patience for lost or delayed luggage is less welcome than ever.
The story described an airport employee using a computer to make sure each bag going onto a flight was supposed to be on that plane. A flashing light meant a checked bag was in the wrong place, and it was taken off the conveyor belt leading to the plane.
Jeremy Ciccone, the development director at MaxMedia, a digital retail agency, says Delta’s use of RFID tags follows the trend of the technology impacting the world across a variety of applications.
He explains that the technology uses small antennae, and work with RFID readers to identify objects up to several feet away.
“RFID tags allow for faster and more efficient bag identification for large numbers of bags compared to the older system of bar codes,” Ciccone says. “Baggage handlers can now scan an entire cart full of bags to make sure they are headed for the correct belts.”
Ciccone notes the cost of an RFID tag is minimal, and saves a lot of time because baggage handlers don’t have to check individual bags.
“RFID technology will eventually automate additional baggage-handling tasks to maximize efficiency, speed and accuracy — resulting in bags promptly arriving where they belong,” he says.
Delta has not revealed how much it pays for each RFID tags, but has disclosed that it is less than 10 cents per tag. At first sight this might seem inexpensive, but in truth implementing RFID technology requires great investment in infrastructure, which is why this solution has not been widely by other Airlines implemented yet. Delta has invested over $50 Million implementing this system.
And we could see RFID make its way into many areas of life. Ciccone says the tags could replace bar codes at grocery stores. The technology even could provide of list of what’s in your refrigerator to your phone, letting you know, for example, if milk has soured or if you’re low on your favorite beverage.
“RFID tags can also be applied in retail environments to accelerate the checkout process, or provide a ‘touch’ count for a product,” Ciccone says. “For the latter, the retailer can measure how often a customer removes a product from a display, and pair the number of ‘pick-ups’ versus its sales figures to attain a new conversion metric.”
Delta’s track record with luggage is already one of the industry’s best, as just 1 out of 500 bags handled by the airline are lost or delayed. RFID is determined to make that record even better. If it works, other airlines are sure to follow. Ciccone says the technology not only could result in fewer bags getting lost, but also speeding up the bag-sorting process.
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However, all is not perfect. Delta is only the first Airline in the US to implement RFID into its baggage tracking system, and while other Airlines are looking into this and other technologies, it is yet to be seen if others will follow. Less than 5% of the Airlines have RFID technology worldwide, which means lost luggage is still a big unsolved issue.
Furthermore, Delta’s new tracking system won’t follow every suitcase. There are limitations, and items like strollers or bags checked at the gate for regional jets, such as those picked up at the arriving gate, won’t be tracked with RFID.
If a Delta passenger connects onto a flight with a Delta partner, the traditional barcode tag takes over for the final leg of the journey. And nothing is preventing the airline from losing your bag if any of these tags get ripped off along the way, including the RFID tags. As SITA Baggage Report of 2016 reveals, 20% of Lost Luggage is caused by tag errors.
All this means that lost luggage will still be an issue for a long while. As Airlines try to find the perfect solution to this issue, travelers need to take matters into their own hands to be able to take control of their luggage. This is where LugLoc comes in.
The innovative LugLoc luggage locator provides travelers with the ability to track their bags, so that if the airline loses them, you know where they are. This will speed up recovery time immensely, and decrease unpleasant surprises. To take advantage of this system, simply purchase the tracking system, which combines GSM and Bluetooth technology, and then track it using its simple app. After downloading the app, a map will appear showing the exact location of your suitcase, regardless of where in the world it is.
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