All Tech Considered
7:02 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Lost Luggage? Airlines Have Got A Brand New (Electronic) Tag

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 2:29 pm

With holiday travel right around the corner, many Americans will have to decide whether to carry on or to check their baggage. Each decision comes with its own hassles.

By 2014, airlines are hoping to make you sweat less when you decide to check your bags. They will introduce an electronic tag system that allows you to track your suitcase's exact location on your smartphone during your travels.

The prototype for View Tag was developed by Richard Warther, now president and CEO of Vanguard ID Systems in West Chester, Pa. He found the airline baggage system frustratingly inefficient.

"The barcode is not a very good barcode," Warther said. "(The airlines) don't have a big enough numbering scheme. There's many flaws in the system because they didn't know how big it was going to get."

View Tag has radio-frequency identification with near-field communication, like GPS tracking. The tag comes with an electronic display that will show a bag's transit route, which can be updated by an app on the traveler's smartphone.

If your bag misses your flight, the airline will be able to text you and let you know the exact location of your luggage. Instead of waiting at the carousel, you'll be able to communicate directly with the airline where to send your bag.

Though the electronic tag won't eliminate lost bags completely, Warther says the new system will let you know where your bag missed a connection.

The adhesive, one-time use paper tags are expensive and wasteful: a year's worth of the 18-inch tags could be stretched around the world 30 times.

However, technology for something other than paper tags hasn't been available until recently. Warther says with the advent of new display technology and the rise of smartphones, this kind of system is possible.

Warther expects electronic tags will retail at around $30.

"The airlines want this. The travelers want this," Warther said. "It's information they're hungry for."

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