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IBM Hopes Robots Will Keep Your Luggage From Getting Lost

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport

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Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is growing. In the coming years, the airport–the 15th largest in the world–expects to have 70 million bags passing through it annually (a 40% increase from today). That might ordinarily mean passengers should brace themselves for an increase in lost baggage, but IBM thinks it can help Schiphol keep its baggage flowing smoothly, with a little help from robotic technology.

The corporation teamed up with Schiphol to build a new nine-square-mile baggage hall that is, according to IBM, the most advanced baggage handling facility in the world. Here’s how it works: After check-in, bags go to bag storage, where robots pull them out on demand, putting bags on the conveyor belt only when necessary to prevent overload (and to increase energy efficiency). The robotic system is also linked to real-time flight information, so bags can quickly be off-loaded or redirected when a passenger misses their flight.

IBM explains:

Through an interconnected, synchronized system every single bag can be located at any point in its journey. This 21-kilometer transport conveyor contains innovative technology like AS/RS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) bag storage with 36 cranes operating a fully redundant storage of over 4,200 bag positions and DCV-technology (Destination Coded Vehicles), as well as six robot cells for the automated loading of bags into containers and carts.

So next time you lose your baggage after departing from Schiphol, blame the bots.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

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