How AI technology is helping locate lost luggage faster

Posted at 3:07 PM, Feb 20, 2023

Artificial intelligence is finding its way into the lost luggage space at airports by matching lost items with its rightful owners in hours rather than days.

If you travel, you can likely relate to the moments of anxiety when you place your bags in the care of airlines, wondering if it will make it to your desired destination successfully.

TSA operates its own lost-and-found system at ¾ of our nation’s 430 airports. It says in 2022, it recorded more than 552,000 unclaimed items, including 25,000 laptops and 6,000 cellphones, but matches were only made 10% of the time. In many cases, it can take days to locate bags and reunite them with owners as many airports use pen and paper system to track the luggage.

New companies such as Lost and Found Software uses digital rolodexing to help file and sort through lost luggage faster. Recently, it has begun to incorporate artificial intelligence to cross reference images and data submitted by users who have lost items to help locate them faster and more efficiently.

“AI solves the problem by registering [lost items] with a picture from your cell phone or tablet and it automatically recognizes what it is. It reads text, it knows what it is, it categorizes it correctly,” said Markus Schaarschmidt, founder of Lost and Found Software.

Markus says his software’s match rate is 89.6%, meaning it successfully identifies lost items with its users that often, as the software can learn that dark lenses usually mean sunglasses as it sorts them separately from reading glasses. It can also differentiate luggage makes and models, identify unique markers, and serial numbers all from a single submitted picture.

“Since ChatGPT there’s a lot of focus around communication so we integrated that [into our product] last week,” said Schaarschmidt. “It allows the users to communicate with the customer a lot faster.”

Lost and Found Software is in 17 U.S. airports but it is not the only product. Places like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Southwest Airlines use NetTracer, which does image matching as well.

SITA, an IT provider for the airline industry, quickly catalogs millions of entries in 2,200 airports worldwide and claims to return mishandled bags to its users within 48 hours 60% of the time. Other companies like Boomerang, Crowdfind, and Chargerback do similar things to help reunite items with travelers in a much shorter amount of time, compared to a traditional pen and paper system.

“I know lost and found doesn’t sound sexy, but it actually is as soon as you see you can make a difference by reuniting people or children with teddies,” said Schaarschmidt. “That’s the most awesome thing ever when we get feedback from that.”

Lost and Found Software is free for the public to use.