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UPS Launches Worldwide Wireless Plan

October 12, 2004

United Parcel Service of America Inc. is embarking on a worldwide wireless strategy that will streamline operations by keeping better track of packages and employees, according to eWeek. The Atlanta-based company next year will roll out some 70,000 units of the DIAD IV—the fourth version of the Delivery Information Acquisition Device that the majority of UPS drivers use to keep track of customer data and capture electronic signatures. The device runs Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE .Net operating system and Intel Corp.'s 400MHz XScale processor. It includes 128MB of memory, which is 20 times the capacity of the DIAD III. Co-developed with Symbol Technologies Inc., of Holtsville, N.Y., the DIAD IV bests its predecessor with the inclusion of an 802.11b Wi-Fi radio, in addition to a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) or GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) WAN radio, depending on location. Wi-Fi lets drivers download daily manifests, while the WAN connection is used to send real-time data such as route changes. The company is exploring seamless roaming between the WAN and the WLAN (wireless LAN), but officials said there's no pressing need. The DIAD IV also includes GPS (Global Positioning System) technology. UPS has been tracking packages with scanners since the 1980s, but the DIAD IV rollout will mark the first time the company can track drivers worldwide. In addition to ensuring drivers don't get lost, GPS also will aid in on-call package pickups. UPS also has introduced Bluetooth technology into its product portfolio. Package loaders capture bar codes with a scanner that they wear over two fingers like a ring. Previous versions of the ring scanner had wires that tethered the employees to a computer; Bluetooth unleashes them. Eliminating the cables is supposed to reduce repair costs by 30 percent, officials said. The company plans to deploy approximately 55,000 Bluetooth ring scanners by year's end. The scanner broadcasts data to a local server via Wi-Fi, making it one of the first devices of its size to incorporate both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Interference between the two can be a problem, so UPS worked with Symbol to synchronize the two protocols with a TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) scheme, officials said.
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