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DHL to Test Tags on Returns

The trial is part of a larger initiative to test RFID systems with the help of partners Philips, IBM, SAP and Intel.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 16, 2006Next month, courier service DHL will begin a proof-of-concept RFID technology trial in the United States, involving an undisclosed DHL customer that manufactures consumer electronics. This represents one of the first RFID technology trials the company is rolling out in connection with its "DHL Innovation Initiative," a global partnership project in which DHL is working with Philips Semiconductors, IBM, SAP and Intel to develop and introduce new technologies for the logistics industry. DHL's parent company, Deutsche Post World Net, announced the initiative in February.

IBM is the main technology partner working with DHL on this initial U.S. RFID pilot, which will track parcels being sent to and from the electronics firm's repair facility. IBM's RFID middleware, part of its WebSphere platform, will be used to manage RFID hardware provided by Intermec. This hardware is being deployed for the trial, and to process the RFID tag data in accordance to the project goals. The smart labels to be used are made with Philips' Gen 2 chips.

Bob Berg
"IBM has existing relationships with the other technology partners [Philips, SAP and Intel] in this initiative," says Scott Burroughs, IBM's solutions executive for sensor and actuator solutions. "We work together frequently on many end users' RFID projects."

In the past, when purchasers of the electronics firm's products needed to have items repaired, DHL sent those customers specialized padded shipping boxes. The customers placed the devices into the boxes and returned them to DHL, which delivered them to the firm's repair facility. For the field trial, DHL will add RFID tags to the shipping boxes, encode a tracking number onto each tag and associate the tracking number with the return authorization number IBM issues for products in need of repair. The goal is to automate the shipping and receiving process.

"The repair facility has a one-day turn-around policy on the repairs," says Bob Berg, DHL Express RFID program manager. "So the faster it can receive the devices into [its] facility, the faster its technicians can begin their repair work."

For the trial, RFID printer-encoders at DHL's Wilmington, Ohio, hub will generate smart labels with the shipping information and DHL's tracking number encoded to each smart label's tag. These labels will then be placed on the empty boxes before delivery to consumers.


TIMOTHY OBRIEN 2006-03-16 01:24:56 PM
DHL to Test Tags on Returns DHL is really taking an impressive lead to identify RFID applications that automate the courier shipping process. Intellareturn Corp. (www.intellareturn.com) already has similar proven systems delivered on a hosted basis to help register, authenticate and return items with such couriers as FedEx, DHL and UPS using RFID and product registration/warranty/returns rules maintaned on the Intellareturn Smart Return Server. It's great to see that DHL gets it. I know FedEx and UPS are staying on the sidelines due to low IT budgets so DHL is seizing this gap and opportunity to develop a leadership position in RFID that may be difficult for FedEx or UPS to ever catch up to. Elliot

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