HONG KONG LEADS the world in the application of RFID technology to the automatic handling and tracking of airport baggage. A system at Hong Kong International Airport that went live in August last year uses 18 million RFID tags a year and is increasing baggage handling productivity. Since 1998, baggage handling at the airport has been concentrated and automated using barcode readers, but each day 25 per cent of the 60,000 barcode labels could not be read, which necessitated costly manual sorting and routing. Now, each item of baggage in the cargo hold has a barcode and an RFID label attached to it. The tags used are Class 0 type and there are 188 readers and more than 500 antennae in the baggage hall. The main benefit of the system is that there are less 'no read' bags, so the baggage sorting capacity is better, with less costly manual back-up. When bags arrive at the area where they are screened for a specific flight, bag movements are automatically recorded, which increases the accuracy of reconciliation (compliance with flight requirements) and reduces the manpower needed for manual handling. Problems with the system include wireless reflections from metal baggage containers, which cause spurious readings, and reading problems caused by bags with metallic surfaces, or which are wet. Initially, 3 per cent of tags were defective, but the manufacturer reduced this to 0.3 per cent by quality control. Another issue is health concerns that workers are exposed to RF waves, but measurements show energy levels much lower than mobile phones.