Monday, January 7, 2008

Ops News: McCarran Airport RFID System Takes Off

Two years after announcing its plan to replace bar-coding with RFID as a means of sorting and tracking baggage, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas has completed the first phase of its RFID deployment, according to Swanson Rink, the consulting engineering firm that designed the system.

On Labor Day weekend, Alaska, AirTran and Champion airlines started placing RFID tags on checked baggage. RFID interrogators (readers), mounted on conveyors that bring the luggage through an explosive-detection system, read the tags, identifying each bag before it is checked for explosives. The tag then routes each piece of luggage to the appropriate plane or, if the explosives detector finds suspect contents, to another security-screening station.

RFID is a favorable alternative to bar-coding for luggage identification. Due to the unpredictable orientation of the label to the optical scanner, 15 to 30 percent of the bar-coded labels being used to identify the luggage at McCarran are not properly read as the bags move through the airport luggage handling equipment. Each piece of luggage for which the bar code is not successfully scanned is diverted and manually read. Because RFID tags do not require line-of-sight with the interrogator, they are much more easily read.


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