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Global Postal Monitoring System Goes Live

The system, initiated by the Universal Postal Union, uses EPC Gen 2 RFID technology to measure delivery times for letters sent to and from 21 countries.
By Rhea Wessel
Aug 11, 2009RFID and the quality of letter delivery around the world are getting a big boost as the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a United Nations agency that fosters cooperation between the postal organizations of 191 nations worldwide, implements a wide-scale pilot involving EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags and interrogators. The pilot, launched earlier this month after the organization conducted a similar test in the Middle East, will measure delivery times for letters sent to and from 21 countries.

Postal service providers from the following nations are participating in this first phase: Aruba, Chile, Greece, India, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. The U.N. agency plans to expand the project, known as the Global Monitoring System (GMS), to up to 100 countries by 2012.


RFID interrogators were installed at key entry and exit points at post offices in 21 countries.

According to Akio Miyaji, who heads the UPU's quality-of-service initiatives, GMS was created to measure delivery times for a select number of test letters among the 431 billion letters sent worldwide each year. In most countries, individual parcels are tracked, usually by means of bar-code technology. Until now, there has been no way to reliably measure the amount of time it takes to send and receive letters. "To improve the quality of letter-delivery services," Miyaji says, "we have to be able to measure the quality on a scientific basis."

At present, industrialized nations share the fees they collect for stamps using a formula that includes a variable component based on delivery quality—that is, the time expended to transport and deliver the letter. "We need to measure quality performance," Miyaji explains, "since it's linked to payments."

During the 17-month trial, 600 pilot participants, which the UPU calls panelists, will slip EPC Gen 2 tags into 80,000 test letters mailed from 38 countries. The tags will be read as the letters move through key entry and exit points in the postal systems, until each letter reaches the postal system exit point in the county of its final destination.

The UPU will utilize the RFID data to reconstruct the path taken by a particular letter, and measure the time it took to move among key junctures. With such a large amount of this information at hand, quality managers in Switzerland will then be able to pinpoint bottlenecks in the system.

"We will have a clear and reliable indication of what happened in the receiving country, but also from end to end," says Antonio Caeiro, a GMS project manager at the Universal Postal Union. During the first weeks of the pilot, he notes, the project was on track. The system generated initial data, and project managers were able to verify that communications were working properly.

USER COMMENTS

Michel Bellaiche 2009-08-12 12:33:07 AM
Forgotten something? Hi, Very interesting article. However, it looks more like propaganda than reporting as it present this UPU trial as something new and ground breaking (apart from last year pilot). The article forgets completely that RFID has been used for exactly this purpose for at least the last 15 years. It is correct that initially active and semi active tags were used, but over this long time innumerable mail flows, both national and international have been monitored with RFID. The system is currently widely in use in many countries from France to Denmark, Australia, USA and many many others. I have a huge respect for the work that RFID magazine is doing and I think therefore that it would be very important for your reputation as an industry reference to check your facts before blindly publishing what seems to be purely a press release from the producers of this so-called ground breaking system. Kind regards Michel Bellaiche
Paul Prince 2009-08-13 10:12:33 AM
No, We Didn’t Forget Anything Rhea Wessel's article does not claim—or even try to suggest—that the UPU's RFID usage is groundbreaking. In fact, during the past five years, she and other RFID Journal reporters have written about a number of mail-tracking RFID deployments, including a project undertaken by the International Post Corp. (see http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/2014/1/1/) and another carried out by Australia Post (see http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/951/1/1/). However, RFID Journal does believe the UPU's project is important and newsworthy. —Paul Prince, Executive Editor
Michel Bellaiche 2009-08-16 02:15:31 AM
RFID in the post - Real life use Dear Paul, Thanks for your comment. This is not to start any kind of controversy but I found, however, that the original article could be understood as if that was something entirely new. RFID in the postal organizations has been in use since 1994 (not only by IPC) both for international and national test mail tracking. Today it is used every day by more than 55 countries. There are more than 1.400 postal centers worldwide equipped with RFID with more than 14.000 RFID gates in use. Every year approximately 500.000 RFID test letters are being sent. I believe that in terms of real life RFID that brings tangible advantages to its users that must be one of the largest system in the world today. This system is evolving all the time and always introducing new technologies while respecting backward compatibility. Kind regards Michel Bellaiche

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