Global RFID postal tracking system tested by Brazilian Postal Service

Brazil’s postal service Correios Brazil is testing RFID based systems to improve processes and offer new postal services around the world. Under the auspices of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a United Nations agency that coordinates postal policies among member countries, Brazil is implementing the use of smart packaging technologies in letters and especially in boxes - a major feature of e-commerce. The systems are up and running and follow the global RFID GS1 standards.

The project is being implemented in stages, in a joint action with the UPU. “This is the first worldwide project for tracking postal cargo using UHF RFID technology”, explains Odarci Maia Jr, RFID Project Manager at Correios. “The complexity of the implementation involves tracking postal cargoes that use a diverse range of materials, dimensions and spatial orientation, in addition they need to have their data captured in small time frame and in large quantities.”

Currently the established tracking process, using barcodes, is being maintained in parallel with the new system, as the project does not aim to replace the entire infrastructure yet. With the advance in the use of RFID technology, according to Maia, the need to improve some operational processes will certainly be identified. “The use of RFID technology in the postal environment is just beginning and, certainly, changes in processes will be observed along the learning curve,” he added

The technology selection was carried out in conjunction with the UPU, based on the low cost of RFID tags, to minimally impact the value of postal services. “Orders transported by Correios have a wide range of contents and are mostly of low value, which would not justify the adoption of active tags”, explains Maia. 

“On the other hand, there was a need to adopt the most used standard in the market and one that would present better benefits, such as the relation between cost and reading performance. Additionally, the use of standards allows for rapid adoption of the technology, as there are numerous solution and input providers on the market. The use of market standards [such as GS1] allows customers to obtain gains in their processes, outside the postal ecosystem”.

Readers are installed at the cargo entry and exit gates of Correios’ main operational units. These units include sorting centres, cargo terminals, distribution centres, international centres, etc. At Correios, parcels or packages are transported in a unitized manner, inside cargo containers, which hold hundreds of packages, depending on individual dimensions and weights.

Each order has its own RFID tag and the load unitizers also have a permanent RFID tag, in this case with the GS1 GRAI-96 identifier. The RFID reading kit consists of an Impinj reader, Keonn antennas, and a mini PC onboard, which are integrated by Kyubi (Comercial Arqué). “The project includes 2009 reader kits, in various configurations, of which approximately half are already installed in around 50 operating units, ”says Maia.

Customers can purchase and produce the labels for their orders, with RFID technology incorporated, without limiting the use to a specific brand or model of inlay, so giving wide freedom of choice. Several field tests were carried out, involving a wide range of types of cargo, with an inlay having been identified as a performance benchmark, the Smartrac Dogbone Monza R6.

To guide customers on inlays that can provide adequate read rates, the company has published a listing of inlays called RPC ‘Recommended by the Post’, which perform equal to. or better than, the reference inlay.

A longer version of this article appears in IOP Journal

« News feed