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BAA picks barcodes over RFID for Terminal 5

BAA has rejected advanced RFID technology in favour of 2D barcodes to track baggage at Heathrow's new terminal 5 in a move that it say will help it improve its track record on lost bags.

BAA IT director, Richard Rundle, said the value of RFiD - which uses radio signals to track bags - would only become apparent once airports all over the world use it.

"The business case for RFiD does not really stand up. With the current system, there are scanners all through the airport continually updating the position of the bag," he said.

Jonathan Adams, head of IT programme management at BAA, said that terminal 5 offers the space to allow the baggage IT system to work effieciently.

"The technology has been tried and tested, but before now it has been shoe-horned into existing buildings," he said.

The system will allow BA to label a "late bag" and rush it quickly through the airport. "Generally bags do not get lost. They miss the flight. If the bag in front gets held up at security, the bag might turn up late and the flight will not wait," said Adams.

The airport will use a 4,000-bag storeroom to hold bags that are checked in early at the airport, so they do not clog up the baggage system.

The system was designed with Dutch company Vanderlande and IBM. The IBM software works out where the bags are supposed to be going, and logistics software works out the best way to get there.

Each bag is given a barcode by BA when the passenger arrives at the airport, holding information on the airline they are travelling with and where they are flying to. Scanners used all over the airport identify the bag and route it correctly.


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