When one of Europe�s largest postal services in the industrialized world required an identification/tracking system to track thousands of mailbags and envelopes, it chose the Escort Memory Systems� FastTrack disposable RF tags for two different applications. Using scores of FastTrack Tunnel Antennas and tens of thousands of disposable FastTrack Passive Read/Write RF Tags, the postal service is using RFID to ensure that its new Priority Mail project meets its 24 (or 48) hour guaranteed delivery times.
Identifying the mail�s destination
In the first application for the postal service, a disposable Passive Read/Write Tag is affixed to one of thousands of mailbags in service. During the manufacturing process, data is written into the tag to match the barcode label. As the mailbags arrive via air at one of the country�s airports, the mailbags are transferred from the plane and into the airport postal service area. The mailbags are weighed and travel down a conveyor system in order to be rerouted to the correct postal service destination. Mounted onto this conveyor is the FastTrack Tunnel Antenna which produces an effective read/write area of about 70 cm (27�) by 96 cm (37�). The FastTrack disposable tag can be read regardless of the mailbag�s position or orientation.
Once the mailbag tag is read, data is passed onto the host PLC system where verification programs determine if the mailbag is supposed to be at this location. If the mailbag has been improperly routed, a warning light is displayed and the mailbag is taken off the conveyor and shipped to the correct destination. The FastTrack RFID system ensures 100% data accuracy, allows for rapid conveyor speeds and most importantly, line of sight is not required since the tags can be read and written through the mailbag itself.
Keeping the mail on time
The non-line-of-sight reading capabilities were critical in the second project for the postal service: tracking of Priority Mail throughout the country. Potential slowdown areas and bottlenecks are not tolerated and must be quickly eliminated in order to provide the 24- or 48-hour Priority Mail customer guaranteed delivery times.
In order to maintain such stringent delivery times, Escort Memory Systems� FastTrack disposable tags were employed once again, but this time strictly for test/validation purposes. Thousands of disposable tags are placed in envelopes and mailed throughout the country to track and record the envelopes� travel time. These envelopes will often be inside the mailbag, which also has a FastTrack tag attached to it.
The FastTrack Tunnel Antenna can read up to 99 disposable tags as they pass through the field at the same time. When the tagged envelopes arrive at each of the routing areas, travel time data is written to the tag and also passed onto the host PLC, giving the postal service exact data on how long it took for a particular envelope to travel to a given destination. If the envelope�s travel time falls outside acceptable limits, the cause can be quickly identified and corrective measures can be taken immediately.
Worldwide interest
Mark Nicholson, president and CEO of Escort Memory Systems, sums up the application, �We are receiving tremendous interest from all corners of the world in our new FastTrack Tunnel Antenna and Tags. Not only postal services, but major courier companies and several non-material handling industries have expressed interest in our FastTrack line. We anticipate that our postal service installation will serve as an RFID model, as more material handling applications adopt our RFID solutions over traditional data capture systems.�
Escort Memory Systems specifically developed its FastTrack Tunnel Antenna for large postal and material handling applications. The system operates on the internationally standardized frequency of 13.56 MHz. Using �backscatter� technology that eliminates the need for a costly RF transmitter/receiver in the tag, the paper tags have no batteries or moving parts, require no maintenance and can read through virtually any non-metallic surface. The RF field powers the integrated circuit of the tag.
Inside the tag
The FastTrack family of RF Tags uses Philips Semiconductor I-CODE chips and employs Escort Memory Systems� unique, patent-pending design and manufacturing technology in order to create advanced industrial RFID Tags.
Data can be written to the tag at the same time as a barcode is printed on it or it can be written during a separate operation. In addition to the Tunnel Antenna, fixed, mounted antennas are available that will achieve up to 70-cm (27�) read/write range, depending on the tag used and application configuration.
FastTrack disposable tags having 48 bytes of memory are available. Although they are primarily being used as �disposables,� tags can be written more than once if the application requires it and can be read indefinitely. The only significant limitation on durability is the self-adhesive label substrate that carries the tag.
Stephen Crocker is the Global MarCom manager for Escort Memory Systems, which has global representation on five continents. Its world headquarters is in Scotts Valley, CA. For more information, contact Customer Service at 3 Victor Square, Scotts Valley, CA 95066, call 831-438-7000, fax 831-438-5768 or e-mail info@ems-rfid.com. For additional information about Escort Memory Systems, its products and services, visit www.ems-rfid.com.