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DHL Demos RFID-Enabled Delivery Van

The prototype is designed to show how RFID could provide a way for customers, contractors and DHL to track both the movement of vans and the location of packages.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 06, 2007Global courier DHL has unveiled a prototype of an RFID-enabled van using software and hardware provided by SAVR Communications. The company developed the van to show existing and future customers how RFID technology can benefit them, as well as independent contractors and DHL itself in tracking the movement of vehicles and the individual packages they transport. However, the prototype has not been field-tested.

The prototype DHL van, which had been under development for the past few months, comes equipped with an RFID interrogator and antennas for locating an RFID-tagged package within the van, as well as a GPS device for monitoring the location of the van across its delivery route.

The project began a year ago, says Brian Johnson, DHL senior systems business analyst, when he asked representatives of SAVR Communications how they could help him create a "glass pipeline," which would provide better package visibility for shippers. The current system enables shippers to track package locations only when they pass through major terminals, such as stations, hubs and gateways.

As a result, SAVR began work on a Chrysler Plymouth van about six months ago, says Adam Crossno, vice president and general manager at the RFID technology provider. It tested RFID interrogators and various configurations to enable tags to work around metals in the truck.

The current prototype van comes equipped with a SAVR UHF Gen 2 RFID interrogator complying with the ISO 18000-6C standard, and seven antennas installed throughout the interior of the van. They capture the RFID number of each tag on a package as it is loaded into the van and send that number to the reader. Antennas then automatically capture the number again when the package is removed. With SAVR software, DHL's back-end system would be able to determine whether the package is being loaded or removed based on which antenna (such as the antenna in the back of the vehicle or by the door) captures the package's RFID tag number.

With each read, data could be sent to the DHL server via a cellular network connection (GSM or CDMA) using SAVR's associated tracking software. To demonstrate how the system works, DHL is using EPC Gen 2 RFID tags from a variety of suppliers.

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