Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Hospitals sometimes stick them on newborns to prevent baby-snatching; Alzheimer's sufferers sometimes wear them. Supermarkets use them for stock control. RFID tags are so cheap that there's one on pretty much every item of hard goods. Any attempt to get the product out of the door without going through the checkout will result in alarm bells and awkward questions.

Dubai RTA's Salik tags use the same technology. Assuming the tag reader is working the system can tell who's passing through the toll gate. Conspiracy theorists might like to speculate on how many Salik tag readers are dotted around Dubai recording vehicle movements, even if they're not being totted up at Dh4 a pop. If Virgin Megastore can give away a tag free with each DVD, what's with the RTA needing to relieve the punters of Dh100? Blatant profiteering, perhaps?

However, for once this is not a tirade against the RTA. Neither is it an attack on the Virgin empire.

My experience last August got me thinking about using RFID technology in airport baggage handling. No, I'm still not having a dig at Sir Richard. The paper tag is all fine and dandy with its bar code on the luggage and a copy on the boarding card, and this is great for ensuring that a bag gets put in the correct pile for loading into the belly of Speedbird 666.

But what if a particular item goes astray? What if a specific bag needs to be located now? With the airport version of a Salik gantry in the baggage hall and an RFID tag on the luggage, the system ought to know exactly where each and every bag is located. Typing the tag number into the computer should very quickly result in "The item you seek is in the third pile from the left." or "That particular bag arrived in Manila two hours ago and is even now getting dizzy on the baggage reclaim carousel. Such a shame you're in Murmansk."

Imagine the advantage in a security situation. After checking in his bags, Osama bin Laden is apprehended. It would presumably be extremely useful if airport security could precisely locate his luggage immediately.

Meanwhile, I try my utmost to travel with carry-on only. This works fine provided I'm willing to travel without nail scissors or anything else sharper than a wax crayon.



dubaibilly said...

That is a very good idea Grumpy - perhaps you should have patented this use of these tags before giving it, free, to the rest of the world! I wonder how long it will be before they do just what you are suggesting.


redstar said...

The tags just don't work that well yet. They are not always read - interference, bad positioning, etc, etc.

Three years ago RFID was going to solve the world's shipment woes. It hasn't delivered.

Let's see what happens in the next five years....

alexander said...

Customs at Dubai Airport already use tags. Baggage that looks 'interesting' is tagged before you pick it up on the carousel: when you go through the archway just as you leave the baggage hall, there are two red indicator lights at the other side of the arch which flash if one of your bags has been tagged, which lets customs know you're interesting so you're then invited over to the x-ray for a closer look.

Ta da!!!!

Mme Cyn said...

Redstar -- but I think they work more often than they don't. How many times have you gone through a shop doorway on your way out, only to have alarms screech at you that the tag on your purchase hasn't been properly cancelled?

Keefieboy said...

It's coming...


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