Delta Air plans RFID bag-tag test

Delta Air Lines has announced plans to test the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) bag tags on selected flights from...

Delta Air Lines has announced plans to test the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) bag tags on selected flights from Florida, through its Atlanta hub - a move seen by analysts and suppliers as a potential boost to the use of RFID bag tags throughout the airline industry.

Delta said the 30-day test, conducted in co-ordination with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), would involve more than 40,000 disposable 900-MHz RFID tags provided by Matrics and SCS.

Delta's decision to test RFID bag tags comes a week after retailer Wal-Mart said it plans to require its top 100 suppliers to use RFID tags on shipping pallets and cases by January 2005.

Deepak Shetty, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said the Delta and Wal-Mart moves will be a catalyst for the widespread use of RFID, which, he said, "has been waiting for some killer apps".

John Shoemaker, vice-president of business development at Matrics, said that widespread use by the airline industry and retailers could lead to production volumes large enough to drive down prices for the tags.

He said that RFID inlays will be embedded in standard bar-code luggage tags, which cost between 8 and 13 cents each.

At large volumes, the cost of an RFID bag tag could fall to 20 cents within a year.

Delta uses an estimated 90 million to 100 million bag tags a year, out of an airline industry total of one billion a year.

Bill Allen, a spokesman for Texas Instruments, said standards need to be adopted before RFID tags can be used throughout the international airline industry.

Shoemaker said RFID tags will improve security by allowing the TSA to track bags with a high level of accuracy - up to 99% - as they move from check-in counter through explosives detection machines and then on to an aircraft.

Bob Brewin writes for Computerworld

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