UPS deploys new handheld delivery terminals

After two years of development, United Parcel Service Monday announced the deployment of its fourth-generation wireless handheld computers for its 70,000 drivers.

The Delivery Information Acquisition Devices, which have undergone more than a year of field testing, are expected to be rolled out to 32,000 drivers in the U.S. and another 8,000 drivers around the world by the end of this year, the Atlanta-based company said.

Co-developed with Symbol Technologies, UPS said it expects to have more than 70,000 of the terminals in use worldwide by the end of 2007.

UPS launched the development for the latest generation of the driver delivery terminals in April 2003. The company spent US$22 million to develop the new devices and said it would spend US$127 million for global deployment. The new driver delivery terminals include built-in cellular, wireless LAN and Bluetooth short-range wireless systems. The devices are powered by Microsoft Windows CE .Net and include a Global Positioning System receiver, a bar code scanner and a color screen.

The new machines are smaller and lighter than the devices they will replace, and also include color screens and expanded memory that will support some new, more customized future services, according to UPS. The company said the new devices are aimed at helping UPS to dramatically reduce its fuel consumption while improving route planning, vehicle loading and package delivery.

"There's really nothing like it," CIO Dave Barnes said in a statement. "This is a key component of a bigger system that we call Package Flow Technology. Our drivers are going to have all the information in their handheld computers to make even more reliable deliveries while driving fewer miles."

That package flow system has been in development at UPS for two years, and some kinks are still being working out since earlier this year, according to the company.

UPS drivers first used handheld computers on their delivery routes in 1991. Today, the handheld devices help the company track about 14.1 million deliveries each day, Barnes said.

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