RFID innovation

Ends users continue to find new ways to innovate with RFID

By ·

In November, I published an update on RFID in the supply chain. To me, the most important takeaway is that industry continues to find new ways to get value from the technology, largely under the radar.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked to Alastair McArthur, the chief technology officer for Tagsys, about a new solution it created for Qantas Airlines.

In this case, Tagsys has developed a rewritable passive tag that is part of a system to speed passengers through the check in and baggage drop process. Instead of logging in at a kiosk and then standing in line to drop off a bag at security, a passenger will be issued a smart card that they can use to log in to the kiosk. Separately, each piece of luggage will get a permanent RFID tag that stays with a bag as long as it’s in use. When a passenger checks in, they drop the bag on a conveyor belt; it’s automatically weighed and the passenger’s destination is written to the tag. The tag will then be read by RFID readers as it travels along its journey. The tag has enough memory to write the actual itinerary for that bag, and not just an identification number, so that an airline worker can figure out where it’s going without accessing a back end data base.

There were some technical hurdles to overcome, McArthur told me. For one, Quantas wanted a unique design – the tag is circular – so that it could be read reliably regardless of its orientation since bags get jostled around during baggage handling. That also meant it had to be fairly rugged, since it was going to be a permanent tag, not a disposable tag.

“What we developed is really an asset tracking and management solution,” McArthur said. “People have been talking about disposable tags to track baggage for the last years. The game changer is that Qantas wanted a long-lasting passive tag that can be there for the life of the asset.”

McArthur believes that the tag will be of interest to Modern readers, and not just those that fly on Qantas Airlines. “I think reusable plastic containers (RPCs) and returnable pallets are increasingly areas where high performance tags can be used,” he said. He also imagines that it can be applied to consumer and industrial machines that have a long life for warranty and repair information. “This tag can be tuned in different ways, depending on how it’s packaged and how it will be applied,” he said. “There’s no reason you couldn’t write information to the tag that could be accessed by a technician without accessing the back end data base.” 

More importantly, it illustrates the increasing range of RFID chips and tags coming to market as the technology matures. “People are thinking of these things as a platform to build value from, having relatively sizeable memory to have additional services to be added to the tag,” McArthur said.


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

Automatic Data Capture · Automation · RFID · Tagsys · · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Is Your DC Ready for E-commerce Growth? Here’s How to Handle More SKUs and Inventory Turns
The rise of e-commerce and multi-channel fulfillment has caused distribution centers (DCs) to experience ever-growing numbers of stock-keeping units (SKUs) and more inventory turns, up to an average of nine in 2015.
Download Today!
From the August 2016 Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
5 Emerging Technologies Enabling Competitive Advantage for Distribution
Come hear about the latest in each-picking robotics, co-bots, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, sensors, drones and droids that are enabling competitive advantage for distribution.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
The data-driven lift truck
Now that manufacturers and distributors are using the data from their automated systems to drive...
Destination Maternity: Destination Automation
Running short of space in its old facility, Destination Maternity Corp. built a new, highly...

Hibbett Sports: Faster, Flexible and Efficient
A high-speed conveyor and sortation system at Hibbett Sports’ Alabama distribution center speeds...
Necessity is the mother of invention at Quiet Logistics
Faced with the loss of a robotic pick solution, Quiet Logistics invented its own robots. Are they...