UPS mid-way in deploying wearable image scanners for faster package sorting

Full rollout to reach 38,000 scanners by end of 2013

With 15 million packages to sort each day, UPS workers are taking advantage of new wearable scanning technology that speeds up package loading and quickly transmits online tracking data to customers.

Motorola Solutions makes the scanners, called RS507 ring imagers, which use cameras to take images of one- and two-dimensional barcodes stuck to packages. The destination data on the barcode is transmitted to a small Motorola terminal (model WT4090) worn on a worker's wrist or hip, then transmitted via Wi-Fi to a data center in the UPS facility. From there, the tracking data is available to customers over the Internet.

UPS began deploying the new technology in 2011 and expects to finish the rollout by the end of 2013, Motorola officials said.

Currently, there are 28,000 ring imagers and wearable terminals deployed at 480 UPS sorting facilities, a number that will eventually reach about 38,000 ring imagers and terminal devices in 1,383 locations.

The ring imager is actually worn on two fingers of either hand of a worker, and has the ability to scan a barcode without the need to focus a scanning gun or to pull a trigger common in older scanning technology. Each time a barcode is read, the system verifies that the package is loaded onto the proper trailer or container used in air travel.

Employees can sort packages faster with the system, and the ring imager was developed to be more comfortable for workers to use during a full day, said Jerry McNerney, director of enterprise marketing for Motorola Solutions. Juan Perez, UPS vice president of information systems, said in a statement that the Motorola ring scanners were also picked because they are rugged and long-lasting.

According to Perez, wearable scanners have accelerated the loading of packages by 29%. UPS was the first adopter of wireless ring scanning in the industry in June 2003 with a CRS1 model, Perez added. The new RS507 innovates by allowing two-dimensional barcode scanning and has a quicker reading capability, as well as Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity that is less susceptible to interference than the previous Bluetooth 1.0.3.

UPS would not disclose the cost of the rollout, but said it invests about $1 billion in new technology each year.

Motorola posted a video of the ring imager in action.

UPS is mid-way in a deployment of ring scanners and hip-worn terminals designed by Motorola Solutions.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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