FedEx couples Google Earth with active package tracking

FedEx couples Google Earth with active package tracking

Summary: Federal Express is running a "limited pilot" that couples sensor technologies to track a package's temperature, location, humidity levels and delivery status with Web 2.0 tools such as Google Earth, according to FedEx CIO Robert Carter.

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TOPICS: Google
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Federal Express is running a "limited pilot" that couples sensor technologies to track a package's temperature, location, humidity levels and delivery status with Web 2.0 tools such as Google Earth, according to FedEx CIO Robert Carter.

Carter, speaking at the Wharton Technology Conference in Philadelphia, outlined a project called Smart Package in a talk about innovation, monetization and network access and connectivity.

Under the pilot, FedEx is including a little radio device into high-value packages, say diamond shipments and biotech packages such as bone marrow transplants. The Smart Package sensors, manufactured by companies like Crossbow Technology, differ from RFID tags because the device sends signals instead of relying on a reader. Carter says there are advantages with active tracking over passive because "the density of the reader network needed for passive RFID is ridiculous."  Indeed, others agree RFID isn't ready for prime time.

Despite active tracking's advantages, Carter adds that the technology is just being developed and has a ways to go before going mainstream. Biotechnology customers seem to be the most interested in the pilot so far.

In FedEx's case the wireless device, about the size of a small cell phone, transmits information back to the company over public Wi-Fi networks. That information is then combined with mapping applications including Google Earth to allow package tracking down to the street level. In a brief demo, video cameras in the truck could relate the status of doors and whether they were open or shut.

Carter's project is also notable for another reason: It illustrates how Web 2.0 technologies can save corporate development time and enhance some ROI cases. In FedEx's case, Carter noted that using Google Earth saved the company time and money.

"The ability to use horizontal development and go out and find a tool is changing the game," says Carter. "If I had to acquire, build or broadly license that technology it would be much more expensive."

"Smart Package shows what is changing about my job. It's about driving connections further out to edge," says Carter. He declined to name the findings of the pilot thus far, early returns and the location of the experiments. After all, FedEx's pilot does focus on high value shipments.

"It's still a closed pilot, which is about all I can say," says Carter.

Topic: Google

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8 comments
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  • Great Idea!

    I think that FedEx utilizing Google earth for tracking information is a brilliant idea. It will make package deliver timing much more accurate for the consumer so they wont have to wait at home all day waiting to sign a package that ending up coming in the evening. The only thing i'll be concerned about is that Google now has to actively update this service for precise shipment locations.
    saint9121@...
  • An even better idea.

    Interesting idea, but what if, (and I know that this is crazy) Fedex actually concentrated on moving their packages efficiently instead. I have had Fedex take 4 days to deliver a package instate. I have had ground shipments arrive before overnights that were shipped on the same day. UPS may not have google, but at least they get me my goods on time.
    itpro_z
    • Hence the whole Google tracking deal

      If they can't get customers to use them on the merits of their service, then lure them in with bells, whistles, and shiny objects
      John Zern
      • So are you saying

        that UPS doesn't need the bells and whistles and that FedEx does?
        Shelendrea
  • No Danger Here

    [i]Now we give the terrorists the ability to track their bombs from the convenience of their computers. "All right, Muhammed, the package is close enough to the White House, let er rip!"[/i]

    The reason this isn't a problem is because no terrorist would be stupid enough to use FedEx to deliver a bomb. Doing that would make them far too easy to track down. A terrorist would drive a [i]bogus[/i] FedEx truck and detonate it when they reached their target. Only a suicide mission would work.
    bhartman33@...
  • What IS web 2.0?

    Geez, you consider Google Earth to be "web 2.0"? How? It's a standard program that takes data from the Internet. You might as well call your internet browser a "web 2.0" application.

    Another example of how stupid this whole "web 2.0" thing is and how it's really not much more than a marketing catch phrase.
    CobraA1
  • RE: FedEx couples Google Earth with active package tracking

    I have been waiting for a package for three and a half weeks.
    The tracking information on line shows it being shuttled
    around endlessly between two US post offices within three
    miles of my house. I have been to both postal facilities and all
    they can do is show me the tracking paperwork. I called FedEx
    and they told me that this was a smart package. I am still
    waiting - to me a "smart" package is one that actually arrives.
    Logo4245
  • RE: FedEx couples Google Earth with active package tracking

    I have been waiting for a package from FedEx for three weeks.
    I have followed the tracking number on line and the packages
    seems to be shuttled between two US postal facilities - each
    one is within three miles of my house. I have been to both
    post offices and all they have is lots of paperwork on my
    package. I have called FedEX and they informed me that this
    was a smart package. No, a smart package is one that actually
    arrives.
    Logo4245