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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.
Aug 11, 2009—RFID 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.
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.
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