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Spain's Post Office Improves Delivery Speed

A UHF RFID system tracks letters moving through processing centers and identifies where mail delivery slows down, enabling the postal service to correct procedural problems.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 04, 2007Correos, Spain's postal service, has deployed an innovative use of RFID aimed at pinpointing inefficiencies in its mail-handling systems. The system employs 340 readers and 2,000 antennas installed across its 16 automated processing centers (APCs) throughout the country, as well as four bulk mail-handling centers. This represents one of the largest deployments of UHF EPC Gen 2 technology in the world.

The RFID system went live in November 2006. The Spanish post office is working with a third party that utilizes a pool of 5,000 passive Gen 2 labels to monitor the movement of letters moving through the mail-delivery systems. By tracking the movement of the tagged mail, Correos has identified mail-handling procedures it must improve to make speedy deliveries more consistent.

Martyn Mallick
This system uses RFID hardware from Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Business division (formerly Symbol Technologies), RFID software provided by vendor Sybase iAnywhere and systems integration services from Aida Centre, based near Barcelona.

The Symbol Gen 2 inlays, embedded in 4-by-2-inch shipping labels, are placed in envelopes addressed to multiple Correos office locations throughout Spain. The letters are placed into drop boxes and initially read by fixed-mount readers installed at four separate bulk mail centers. All letters are sent to these centers for initial distribution into the delivery system, based on the destination address. The tags are read again as the letters leave the bulk mail centers, as well as at various times at the APCs and other, smaller postal facilities, where they are sent before being delivered to their final destinations. In addition to being installed around entry and exit points at the facilities, interrogators are also affixed to conveyor systems and sorting machines.

At each read point, the unique ID number encoded to each label—along with a time stamp of when the read was taken and a number identifying the location of the reader—is sent to the Sybase iAnywhere software. When the letters reach their destinations, they are recollected, inserted into new envelopes, addressed and dropped again into mail collection boxes.

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