You can already check in to a flight online, so why can’t you check your luggage? With a new luggage tag about to be trialed by British Airways, you can. And you can do it with your smartphone.
The BagTag was designed by UK outfit Designworks, and has an e-ink screen to display a barcode. The idea is that you have the same tag on every trip, and you reprogram the code using your phone (the blurb says you do it with “the swipe of a smartphone,” which sounds a lot like RFID).
Thus you could, in a theoretical future, buy a ticket using an airline’s app, add the boarding pass to your iPhone’s Passbook, and program your luggage tag. Then, at the airport, you could just self-scan and drop off your bag, perhaps even paying for weight overages with your iPhone. Then you could track your bag from the iPhone to make sure it’s following you on your journey.
Paper tags (which aren’t really paper any more) are surprisingly sophisticated, designed to make sure your bag ends up where it should. But the next stage is RFID in tags, and if you’re going to do that then why not let them talk to our phones, too?
One tip: you should still put your name and address on your bag, every time your travel. I took my Brompton bike to Tel Aviv in a vacation last month, and it got stuck at the Ben Gurion airport for an extra day. They tracked it thanks to its label, but they identified it as mine thanks to my own label. And it was delivered to my door the next day.