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12/31/2002
01:30 PM
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UPS Going Wireless In $1B Worldport Facility

United Parcel Service is spending $20 million to replace old scanners with Bluetooth-enabled devices.

With its peak delivery season behind it, United Parcel Service Inc. is investing in wireless technology for its new $1 billion Worldport air transportation hub at Louisville International Airport. Each of the 304,000 packages sorted per hour at the 4-million-square-foot facility must be scanned so that UPS can provide customers with accurate tracking data.

Beginning in June, UPS will start a $20 million project to replace wearable Symbol Technologies scanners at 1,700 hubs worldwide, including Worldport, with 55,000 devices that use Bluetooth wireless technology. Once each package is scanned, Worldport relies on a network of 4-way Intel-based fault-tolerant servers from Stratus Technologies to route data from the Louisville facility to back-end mainframes in Atlanta and Mahwah, N.J.

This system handles 6,000 messages per second and has to run at all times, says Donna Barrett, a manager at UPS. "If you can imagine an automated facility of that size, if that system went down the whole facility would stop," she says. The majority of UPS's packages come through Worldport, which is UPS's largest infrastructure investment in its 95-year history. A holiday outage would have left countless gifts on the facility's 122 miles of conveyor belts and many more parents crying in their cocoa on Christmas morning.

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