Creators of cost-saving radio tagging system pick up award

A radio-tagging system that could save airlines and retailers millions of pounds has won its Cambridge University creators a leading engineering award.

Dr Sithamparanathan Sabesan and Dr Michael Crisp scooped the Royal Academy of Engineering ERA Foundation Entrepreneurship Award earlier this month for their research into a low-cost location-sensing system.

The Real Time Location System (RTLS) will allow businesses such as high-street retailers and airlines that use tagging on high-end goods and passengers’ luggage to cheaply and effectively monitor the location of these items to less than 1m.

Current systems normally only allow for a proportion of tagged items to be detected under practical circumstances and are not able to locate tags accurately in real time. Sabesan’s research shows that the improved RTLS he is developing could be 100 per cent accurate, as well as locating passive RFID tags to an accuracy within 1m.

It is estimated that the system could save airlines in excess of £400m. Retail groups have also been engaged in the project, not just for tagging items but also for the advancement of self-service checkouts, which have shown rapid growth in the past few years. The work was funded by the EPSRC TINA (The INtelligent Airport) project and Boeing.

Sabesan and Crisp received their awards at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s annual Academy Awards ceremony at London’s Guildhall. There they collected a £10,000 personal prize, with a further £30,000 to invest in the development of their winning idea.

Sabesan said: ’We now want to take this technology to the next level by developing a commercial prototype system.’