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Finland Post Finds RFID Can Deliver ROI

After completing a two-month RFID trial, the national mail carrier believes there is a clear business case for using tags to track reusable assets such as roll cages and crates.
By Jonathan Collins
In addition to having an RFID tag fixed with plastic ties, the cages also had tape wrapped around them, indicating they were tagged trolleys used in the trial and should be returned to Finland Post's Helsinki Post Terminal, one of seven distribution centers throughout the country.

Three Caen A928 UHF fixed readers were deployed as portals at the Helsinki Post Terminal. Two portals were designated for checking the cages in and out of the facility, while the third was located at a separate entry point to the building, where cages were returned from Finland Post's logistics center in the nearby city of Vantaa. Staff in the facility also had handheld readers for checking cages without having to move them through a portal.

Cages used in the RFID trial were taped to distinguish them from those not being tagged.

According to Cap Gemini, by specifically designing the tags and experimenting with six separate tag positions on the cages, they managed to read 100 percent of the tags moving through the portals, with up to 12 cages being pushed through the portal at a time, traveling as fast as 15 mph.

Drivers were supplied four handheld readers, specially developed for the project by MaxID, to use when delivering and collecting roll cages at customer sites, as well as in the terminal. Before the system was installed at the Helsinki location, much of the testing was carried out at RFID test facilities by TrenStar, located in Beverley, the United Kingdom.

During the eight weeks of the trial, the RFID portals would read the cage tags as they exited and re-entered the terminal. After trucking the cages to the customer's site, a Finland Post worker would use a handheld reader to interrogate the cage tags, as well as his or her own RFID badge and an RFID tag mounted at the delivery doors of the customer's delivery area. The handheld device would also record the day and time of each read. The driver would enter the specific event in the device, such as a roll cage delivery or pick-up, and whether the cage was empty or loaded. When the driver returned to the main terminal, the data collected during his rounds could then be uploaded to the trial application over a wireless LAN connection.

Finland Post's previously selected portal and integration software supplier, BEA Systems, took part in the trial to develop a software application environment that would enable Finland Post to integrate the trial application with its existing IT systems to exchange data with the new RFID hardware. BEA initially worked with RFID middleware specialist ConnecTerra on the project. Shortly after completing the trial, though, BEA acquired the privately held company to incorporate ConnecTerra's RFID middleware as its RFID Device edge server and WebLogic integration server product, which connects into the company's existing WebLogic software architecture.

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