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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
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.

UPU's Akio Miyaji
The agency also ruled out a semi-active system after comparing its performance rates to those of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID during a test conducted in the Middle East (see 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.


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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