Currently the hot topic in the US is RFID for shipping containers. This has gained prominence with the news that Dubai Ports World is acquiring P&O, which runs six major US ports: New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and New Orleans. This takeover has caused concerns for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the number of unauthorized containers that enter the US. To combat this, the DHS is investigating the use of RFID tags incorporated into a security seal on containers, with ports having the ability to identify any untagged containers before they leave the port.
Meanwhile, in Europe and the US, the aviation industry is leading the way in RFID projects, with baggage handling being the focus. According to Mr Schrama, the cost to the industry of every misplaced item of baggage (their term for lost luggage) is $100, and the industry has a 97% success rate.
When you consider that passenger numbers at Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted are expected to rise from 121 million a year now to 162 million a year by 2015 (according to airport operator BAA), the cost per year for these three airports alone is currently $36.3 million, rising to $48.6 million by 2015. If the RFID technology only reduces the number of misplaced items by 20%, the annual saving will still be approximately $8 million.
With benefits in this order of magnitude, why is RFID still being talked about in terms of becoming ‘the next big thing’? The answer most widely touted is that RFID tags and readers have been waiting for the generation 2 (gen 2) technology to be approved by the various standards organizations. While gen 2 waits for the ISO 18000-6 type C approval, Symbol Technologies has announced the release of Symbol XR480, an industrial-class RFID reader that supports today’s European RFID standard (ETSI 302-208). According to Mr Schrama, Symbol has successfully tested the interoperability with US, European, and Chinese tags as part of a major European project.