Ándale! Spain’s Postal Service Deploys RFID

Correos, the Spanish national postal service, has outfitted 37 distribution centers with an RFID system that tracks mail samples to analyze the flow of mail through the system. Reva Systems, whose equipment was used in the project, says the postal industry is a growing RFID market.
Published: September 29, 2008

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 29, 2008—Correos, Spain’s national postal service, has installed RFID systems at 37 distribution centers to track the flow of mail through the system. Gen2 passive RFID tags are being placed in sample parcels and letters and are recorded automatically when they enter and leave distribution centers, according to an announcement today from Reva Systems, whose Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) appliances monitor the performance of Correos’ RFID readers and forward data to the mail processing system.

“There will be up to 50,000 tags in the system at any one time,” Reva CEO Ashley Stephenson told RFID Update. “Postal workers don’t know which items have RFID tags. It’s not like someone is picking up the mail and scanning it — it’s an unattended operation.”

Correos manually inserts RFID tags into sample mail pieces and places them into the mail system from various points. It will use the RFID data to analyze mail flow to identify bottlenecks and potential operational improvements.

Portal readers from Motorola have been installed at the DC dock doors to automatically record incoming and outgoing tagged items. Depending on the size of the DC, there are between five and 30 readers per facility, according to Stephenson. The readers are networked to Reva’s TAP appliance, which records the dock door where each RFID-tagged item was identified, attaches the time of the transaction, and forwards the data in real time to a legacy system from IBM that tracks and manages mail operations. One or two TAP appliances are used at each DC. The devices also monitor the RFID readers and antennas to make sure they are online and functioning properly. Aida Centre, a Spanish systems integrator, worked with Correos to design and integrate the system.

“Reva Systems provides us with a reliable platform to track the complex movement of tagged mail in real time through our network of depots, enabling us to improve the overall quality of the mail service for millions of customers,” Regina Defarges, Correos’ regional deputy manager, said in Reva’s announcement.

The system has been installed at 37 distribution centers and there are no current plans to extend RFID tracking to individual post offices, according to Stephenson. The application is similar to one the Finnish postal operator announced earlier this year (see In Finland, Your (RFID) Chip’s in the Mail).

“The same kind of technology is being considered all over the world. It offers a valuable insight that gives postal and parcel operators visibility into how their systems are functioning,” Stephenson said. “Correos is not a sample of one. It’s part of a growing trend. Postal is a growing vertical.”

This spring RFID industry research firm IDTechEx issued a report that included 40 case studies of RFID postal systems and predicted the market would be worth $2.5 billion in 10 years.