FedEx equips couriers with wireless devices

Company aims to help staff shave precious seconds off delivery time in its latest multimillion-dollar wireless initiative.

Transportation player FedEx Express plans to equip 50,000 couriers located in 60 countries with wireless devices by 2008.

The FedEx PowerPad, a Windows Pocket PC-based device, is Bluetooth-enabled and uses GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) connectivity. The handheld is able to capture signatures electronically, and couriers can access dispatch information without having to go back to their dispatch vehicles.

The new FedEx PowerPad will replace the FedEx SuperTracker developed 20 years ago.

Linda Brigance, FedEx's vice president and CIO for the Asia-Pacific region, told ZDNet Asia in an interview that with the new features, a courier using the new device is expected to save between 10 seconds and 35 seconds at each location.

The device was piloted in Hong Kong early this year, according to Brigance. Response from customers towards the project, which was completed last month, was "very positive", she added.

"We've had some good take-back from our Hong Kong experience, which we've been able to learn and [improve on] for the other countries," Brigance said.

Brigance noted that FedEx will commit US$200 million globally in new wireless technologies and implementations. The investment will be carried out over a period of five years.

In the Asia-Pacific region, FedEx targets to implement over 2,500 devices by 2007. Besides Hong Kong, the FedEx PowerPad will be made available in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Korea, New Zealand, Guam and Macau.