Universal Postal Union to Use RFID for Better Tracking

rfid envelopeRecently, the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which coordinates international postal mail services has decided to use RFID technology to track the speed of international deliveries. Although the project is still in preliminary testing phase, the UPU anticipates that the system will be used in 100 countries by 2012.

Since the UPU is not a private delivery service such as FedEx, they face a lot more difficulties. Regular postal delivery is not operated by a single organization, and consumers that buy stamps in one country have to get a piece of mail to another country through the mail system of the destination. In addition, the UPU sets quality-of-service standards for how long delivery should take, in addition to standard origination and termination fees for countries to settle the cost of delivering the mail to the proper destination.

Although packages have barcodes that are scanned at every point along the way, traditional letters don’t, and despite what you may think about e-mail, there are still over 15 million letters that are sent across borders every day. The UPU has monitored letter delivery by sending special test letters and using independent analysts to record the departure and arrival of test letters, but postal workers at gateway offices, where letters pass through before their final destination, have to record the time themselves, leaving the process open to manipulation.

By using an RFID based system, tags can easily be hidden inside envelopes, which can be read automatically as they pass through RFID portals throughout international gateway offices. The letters’ unique tracking numbers will also be collected, and then passed onto their prospective delivery reports. By doing this, the UPU will be able to implement a standard that allows each country to pay each other based on the quality of service their letters receive.

While RFID is currently used in some developed countries to monitor mail, systems today use semi-active tags that are expensive. A new global standard for RFID, called Gen2, allow UPU to implement passive-tag systems that cost only about 30 cents each and can be easily disposed of, making RFID accessible to UPU’s 191 country members.