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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.
Once the system is fully up and running, the quality data will be available to users via a Web interface called the Statistical System for Analyses and Reports (STAR).
The UPU considered employing a semi-active RFID system for tracking letters after consulting with member states familiar with the technology, such as Switzerland (see Swiss Post Delivers RFID to Its Parcel Centers, Transportation Hubs), but it ultimately ruled out semi-active tags due to their cost. When the GMS project was being planned in 2005, Miyaji says, a single semi-active tag cost approximately 50 dollars.
U.N.'s Universal Postal Union Gears Up for Large RFID Pilot). "We found that the performance rates were not so different," Miyaji explains.
Before the pilot's launch, the UPU held an open tender for technology providers, and eventually chose Aida Centre, a Spanish systems integrator that had helped Correos, Spain's postal carrier, to implement a system utilizing passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags (see Spanish Postal Service Expands Its RFID Deployment). Reva Systems' Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) devices will manage the RFID interrogators and the collection of tag data. Motorola supplied 70 reader gates for 31 postal centers, as well as 68 additional interrogators. The readers comply with various international standards around the world.
German firm Quotas hired the panelists, and is now managing the process of sending out letters containing RFID tags. The tags are being supplied by Alien Technology. Each tag is encoded with a hybrid ID number based partly on the tag's Electronic Product Code (EPC), and also includes a UPU number.
Ashley Stepenson, Reva's chairman and cofounder, says the Universal Postal Union chose to deploy his company's TAP 331 devices because of their ability to interface locally with RFID readers, to collect, process and store data, and to communicate regularly with the UPU system. He expects the agency's project to lead to further adoption of similar measuring systems in private postal systems, such as those run by express logistics companies.
Caeiro also expects the GMS project to spur demand from individual countries for systems to monitor their domestic mail performance more closely. And it could easily lead to spin-off RFID projects, he says—such as efforts to tag valuable postal containers, including roll cages, postal bags and trays, much as the postal carrier in Switzerland does.
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