In a deal that will showcase Bluetooth technology, United Parcel Service (UPS) plans to introduce the world's largest consolidated wireless network system throughout its global distribution centres.
Using a Bluetooth radio device, the system starts with a ring worn on the package-sorter's finger to scan the parcel's barcode.
This ring then sends the data to a wireless terminal worn on the hip, eliminating the need for cumbersome straps and cords.
But the biggest milestone for Bluetooth lies in how the hip terminal relays its data to UPS's wireless Lan.
Criticised in the past for interfering with Ethernet standard 802.11b (which operates on the same frequency but has a wider range), the new terminals combine both standards, demonstrating that interference issues can be readily overcome.
The system will cost UPS over $100m in scanners, terminals and Lans, an investment it hopes to see back within six months through increased productivity and equipment savings.
"We are currently using 18 different types of scanners and systems internationally," explains Joan Schnorbus, spokesperson for UPS.
"Our goal is to standardise these systems across the board and consolidate other applications."
Bluetooth technology is an open standard and specification for short-range radio links between small, portable devices.
Developed by Ericsson, the standard was introduced in 1998 by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), a consortium of industry giants including Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba.
When first introduced in 1998, Bluetooth caught the imagination of the industry, becoming something of a crusade.
"It was a very ambitious project and not very realistic. This type of technology usually takes a decade to develop, not just a few years," said Michael Wall, wireless research analyst for Frost and Sullivan.
According to Wall, the main obstacle has been ensuring the different types of devices will work together.
Symbol Technologies, which together with Motorola will implement the UPS network, believes it has resolved these issues.
"By using software to manage traffic and to keep the 802.11b radio quiet when Bluetooth is talking, we've eliminated interference," explains Mark Ferrone, Symbol spokesperson.
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