July 21, 2008, Updated September 12, 2012

A better way to wait for your luggage: Easy-2-Pick’s device beeps as your suitcase emerges onto the carousel at the airport.We’ve all been there: Just off a long, hot flight, you stand exhausted at a luggage carousel, pushing and shoving your fellow passengers as an endless line of similar-looking suitcases snakes its way around and around. Is that one yours? No. Pull that one over, maybe that’s it. No. Welcome to luggage carousel hell.

But wait a minute – what’s this guy got? Holding a small circular device in his palm, one of your fellow passengers standing away from the madding crowd listens as it beeps in his hand. Within seconds he’s been reunited with his suitcase, which has just appeared on the carousel. Where can I get one of those, you wonder jealously.

With any luck, travelers should be able to get their hands on the Easy-2-Pick electronic luggage tag in the coming months, freeing them from the free-for-all at luggage claim, thanks to its Israeli developer Yoav Ben-David and his partner, Zvi Kanor of American Express Travel in Tel Aviv.

It was the same nightmare scenario that sent Ben-David, a retired IDF colonel, looking for an answer. “Passengers were pushing each other and there was total chaos,” he recalled in a recent interview in the Israeli press. “I thought for sure there had to be a better way of waiting for one’s bags, without the stress.”

Ben-David and Kanor formed a partnership and decided to turn for help to people in the Israeli electronics industry. According to Kanor, the original device they had in mind included a transmitter and a receiver and worked on a special algorithm.

“We wanted it to be very small,” recalls Kanor. “We asked that the range not be more than 15 meters, so that it only beeps when it’s close and on the carousel.” Special frequency requirements were also necessary so as not to interfere with any airport operations.

The first step was getting the credit-card-sized transmitter to “talk” to its receiver, a circular device the fits neatly into your hand. Once that was achieved, the next step was “to get different ones to talk to different receivers,” Kanor tells ISRAEL21c, allowing for a future scenario in which many passengers at one airport could all be using such devices to find their individual bags.

There was also a need to keep the device small, which proved difficult at first.
Eventually, the prototype emerged. The two-piece device, which comes in a snazzy case, includes the round, black receiver on a key-chain, with a small blue button in the middle, and a very thin card the size of a hand calculator or credit card that slides around the handle of your baggage.

A photo-electric cell on the transmitter begins working once the suitcase is in the light of the terminal on the carousel, and the receiver starts to light up, beep and vibrate when your bag is within 12-15 meters of where you’re standing. The only thing left to worry about is getting a cab home.

The two also developed a less sophisticated device which is also helpful: a strip that fits onto the suitcase and flashes LEDS in four different colors once it hits the carousel, in a combination that can be set by the suitcase’s owner.

Kanor is delighted that an Israeli invention could put smiles back on the faces of world travelers, like the ones he noticed when the devices were being tried out in Istanbul or New York. “I can tell you that the first few times we tried it out at airports, people were so amazed, they asked immediately: Can I buy one, can I buy one? They were very impressed…It’s great, whenever Israel is innovating something, I love it.”

The technology is also being eyed towards providing answers to other problems, including keeping an eye on one’s kids in the mall or tracking elderly people in nursing homes, Kanor said.

Kanor says orders are already flooding in for the devices, mostly from banks, travel agents and other places anxious to offer them to their clients.

The Easy-2-Pick is expected to be available in the fall and will cost about $15-20; the cheaper device costs about $4. Either option is likely to prove a God-send to passengers eager to put their luggage carousel nightmares to flight.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director