Motorola deal to improve airport luggage handling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2009, 12:00am

The Hong Kong International Airport is intensifying its use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology four years after introducing a HK$50 million pioneering electronic baggage-tracking system.

The Airport Authority has awarded United States-based wireless communications supplier Motorola a multi-year contract for an undisclosed amount to further improve baggage-handling at Chek Lap Kok.

RFID is an automatic identification technology that stores and remotely retrieves data from electronic tags using a wireless network.

'The technology has greatly enhanced the reliability and efficiency of our baggage reconciliation and management system,' said C.K. Ng, the authority's deputy director of airport operations.

At present, more than 70 airlines are involved in the electronic baggage-tracking activity at the airport, which handled 48.6 million passengers last year.

Unlike bar code tags, which require a scanner to be in the line of sight to read the tags, the new-generation Electronic Product Code-standard RFID luggage tags can store more data and be read at long distances without direct contact with the baggage.

The system also achieves an average read rate of more than 97 per cent, compared with 80 per cent for a bar code-only system.

Timely and accurately checked bags mean airlines and passengers experience more on-time departures. Improved customer service is also achieved, as the system reduces the incidence of misdirected bags.

The airport's RFID set-up tags passengers' bags in multiple locations, including the check-in counters at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, in-town check-in desks at the Kowloon and Hong Kong stations of the Airport Express and upstream check-in facilities in the Pearl River Delta area.

According to Motorola, it has partnered Avery Dennison RFID, a manufacturer of inlays for label converters, to make the electronic tags, and Print-O-Tape, a leader in the design, manufacture and supply of automated baggage tags.

The three companies were awarded a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year to supply the airport with as many as 70 million RFID baggage-tracking tags based on International Air Transport Association-approved specifications.

Motorola is also supplying an undisclosed number of fixed RFID readers and hand-held computers.

Joseph Phi, the chairman of non-profit RFID proponent GS1 in Hong Kong, said: 'Hong Kong needs to continuously pursue innovation and adopt technology to bring about greater efficiency.'

RFID technology is widely used by local manufacturers, retailers, logistics companies and the government to manage, secure and track items.

Before the airport's RFID adoption, the Octopus stored value card and the Autotoll electronic toll collection systems were the leading examples of RFID usage.

Anna Lin, the chief executive at GS1 in Hong Kong, said the airport's RFID implementation was among the Gold Award winners at last year's first Hong Kong RFID Awards.

'We're only beginning to see how far this technology will go,' she said.

Rapid retrieval

Technology enhances HKIA's baggage management system

The number of passengers handled by the Hong Kong airport last year: 48.6m