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Japan firms to test radio-tagged luggage

A system that uses radio ID tags to track luggage will get a trial run at airports in New York, Japan, Singapore and Amsterdam.

Singapore's Changi, Amsterdam's Schiphol and New York's John F. Kennedy International airports will later this year take part in an experiment testing radio-tagged luggage.

The test is part of a plan by a newly formed consortium of Japanese firms to promote RFID (radio frequency identification) tags on passenger luggage, according to a report on Nikkei Electronics News.

Radio tagging of luggage could revolutionize the sorting and routing of luggage, the report said. If RFID technology were fully integrated into currently disparate systems, bags could be picked up from travelers' homes by courier, processed and then loaded into the aircraft without further involvement of the passenger, the report added.

This "hands-free" delivery of luggage will be tested this year by the new Advanced Airport Systems Technology Research Consortium. It comprises 58 Japanese transport-related and electronics firms such as the Narita Airport Authority, Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airways (ANA), Omron, Dai Nippon Printing, Fujitsu and Matsushita Electric.

Testing will start later this year and carry on for the next five years, the report said.

The Narita Airport Authority is aiming to commercially launch the system in two to three years, according to Nikkei News.

Japanese firms are at the forefront of RFID technology. Hitachi, for example, is rumored to be developing a speck-sized radio chip to be embedded into Euro notes as a security measure. At a recent Japan trade show, a demonstration of RFID technology allows retailers to track the movements of a consumer in a book store.

CNETAsia staff reported from Singapore.