TNT web-enables parcel tracking system

Courier firm TNT UK has revamped its web-based parcel tracking system to provide its customers with XML, SMS, Wap and e-mail...

Courier firm TNT UK has revamped its web-based parcel tracking system to provide its customers with XML, SMS, Wap and e-mail access to track and trace parcels.

Yesterday (21 July ) TNT went live with the new version of its track-and-trace web-based tracking system. Unlike the previous version, the new track-and-trace system allows customers to check multiple consignments using a single query from the TNT website. End-users can also query the system by sending a specially formatted SMS message or e-mail.

Tracking information can be downloaded onto a PC's web browser, a handheld computer or a Wap browser on a mobile phone. TNT said it will also offer key customers a way to connect directly into the track-and-trace system using an XML interface.

Speaking at the CA World conference in Las Vegas last week, Peter Truman, lead designer at TNT, said, "We are providing customer self-service, anytime, any where any place."

Truman said the system's XML interface will allow selected TNT customers to access tracking information directly by sending a specially formatted XML message to TNT. The system at TNT checks both the network IP address of the customer's server requesting the information and a customer-supplied Pin code to enforce security.

The new software was developed by Computer Associates Technology Services, the consulting arm of CA.

Ed Holbrook, technical consultant at CA, said the system was developed using CA's Advantage Openroad application server, which allows the software to be deployed both on Windows and Unix systems.

The new software builds on the existing track-and-trace system. Holbrook said, "By using XML and Openroad, we were able to develop the track-and-trace system based on the current front-end logic in a couple of weeks."

Connection to the old tracking system is achieved using translation software, which converts XML into Com, Microsoft's component software architecture. Com then provides the interface into the old tracking system.

Tim Jennings, research director at anlyst firm Butler Group, said the development of the new tracking system was innovative because TNT did not have to redevelop track-and-trace from scratch to add the new functionality. "This is an evolutionary approach to building a web-enabled application," he said.

Jennings said the way the new track-and-trace system has been designed has allowed TNT to redevelop its front-end to handle new means of access without major software development.

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