UPS going wireless in Europe

United Parcel Service is setting in motion an ambitious effort to deploy wireless technologies, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, to its package facilities and delivery drivers in Europe. The first part of the deployment will occur inside sorting centers and hubs, said UPS, involving pager-sized Bluetooth scanners, worn on the middle finger, sending package tracking data to small Wi-Fi (802.11b) terminals

United Parcel Service is setting in motion an ambitious effort to deploy wireless technologies, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, to its package facilities and delivery drivers in Europe.

The first part of the deployment will occur inside sorting centers and hubs, said UPS, involving pager-sized Bluetooth scanners, worn on the middle finger, sending package tracking data to small Wi-Fi (802.11b) terminals worn on the waist by package sorters. The Wi-Fi devices then send the tracking data to UPS’s computer network for use by customers.

By eliminating the cables that connect the ring scanners to the wearable terminals, UPS expects a 30% reduction in equipment and repair costs, as well as a 35% reduction in downtime and a 35% reduction in the amount of spare equipment needed. As part of its eventual global deployment, UPS plans to install as many as 12,000 Wi-Fi access points in more than 2,000 facilities.

UPS said it’s also rolling out new hand-held computers to its delivery drivers in Europe. The DIAD IV (Delivery Information Acquisition Device), currently in field trials in the U.S., includes wireless connectivity options for personal (Bluetooth), local (Wi-Fi) and wide-area networks.

UPS said it began pilot testing the Bluetooth ring scanner and Wi-Fi terminal application in Europe this June in Munich, Germany, and has now launched another pilot test in Hamburg. UPS added that it anticipates deploying these technologies at 73 sites in Europe by the end of 2005 and plans to start deploying the DIAD IV in Germany next year. The company anticipates having 10,000 DIAD IVs deployed in Europe in 2005 and more than 70,000 worldwide by the end of 2007.

“The wireless technology UPS is deploying today is laying the groundwork for the company to develop better operational software applications, which will allow us to offer new customized solutions to our customers while reducing our operational costs,” said Ken Lacy, UPS’s chief information officer.

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