United Parcel Service is to spend $127m (£81m) on global deployment over the next five years of a driver terminal that features built-in cellular, wireless Lan and Bluetooth short-range wireless systems.
The Deliver Information Acquisition Device (DIAD) IV includes GPS receivers and a barcode scanner.
"This electronic data capture ensures that UPS customers have the most current package tracking information available to them anytime, anywhere," UPS chief information officer Ken Lacy said.
Dave Salzman, UPS program manager for information services, said the short-range Bluetooth wireless system in the DIAD IV is designed to communicate with peripheral devices that the company may add in the future, including printers and credit card readers.
UPS will use the Bluetooth system to communicate with customer computers that have Bluetooth wireless connections and UPS shipping software. Salzman added that one reason UPS chose the .net version of Microsoft's Windows CE was because it supported XML messaging, which will make it easier for the DIAD IV to communicate with customer PCs.
The built-in 802.11b Wlan system will be used for in-building communications with WLAN systems installed in UPS stations and hubs. In October 2000, UPS detailed plans to install Wlans at all 2,000 of its sorting facilities worldwide.
The DIAD IV, which UPS plans to start deploying next year, replaces the Motorola-manufactured DIAD III introduced in 1999.
UPS started a large-scale test of a GPRS network, operated by AT&T Wireless Services, with 4,500 DIAD III terminals earlier this year. Last year, UPS completed an upgrade of 15,000 DIAD IIIs used by its drivers in Europe to use a GPRS network operated by the T-Mobile division of Deutsche Telekom in Bonn.
UPS has not yet signed a long-term contract with AT&T Wireless pending the results of the tests. Cingular Wireless in Atlanta, as well as the US division of T-Mobile, also operates nationwide GPS-based cellular systems.
UPS intended to use CDMA networks to provide coverage in areas not served by GPRS systems. Both Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS Group operate nationwide CDMA networks.
UPS rival FedEx started a rollout of a similar driver terminal based on the Pocket PC operating system last autumn in a $150m project designed to equip 40,000 drivers.
The FedEx PowerPad operates over the AT&T Wireless Services GPRS network and also incorporates Bluetooth technology as well as a built-in 802.11b wireless Lan system, although it does not have built-in GPS.