UPS to use electronic beacons to improve delivery accuracy

United Parcel Service (UPS) has announced it is to install electronic beacons in its package cars that notify sorting staff if they have placed an item in the wrong delivery vehicle.

The system is known as the Preload Smart Scan Initiative. UPS new system uses Bluetooth-enabled beacons that communicate with package scanning devices that are worn by UPS employees who are loading packages onto vehicles.

“The scanners, which read package labels, are programed to know where a package belongs in a specific vehicle,” said UPS in a statement. “The beacons, meanwhile, send signals that are unique to certain vehicles and their position within the vehicle. The scanners detect those signals. If a package enters the wrong vehicle, the scanner will notify the loader of the error.”

The UPS system uses a “customized high-tech solution” because it considered off-the-shelf beacons would not be up to the job, “due to their broad signal range and the close proximity of UPS package cars during morning loading”.

UPS said that the beacons will be in 301 US locations this year, reaching a total of 28% of U.S. facilities and 47% of U.S. package cars. UPS also plans to expand the initiative to facilities internationally. Given that this is not a UPS–only issue and costs the industry thousands of dollars a year, it could well be a technology that others seek to emulate to help with their own fine margins in what is a tightly competitive market.  
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