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FedEx is testing a wireless system designed to free its couriers from having to return to their trucks to input information or receive new pickup requests. Five million messages a day are fired over FedEx's private network, says Ken Pasley, head of wireless-systems development. That network reaches to each of its trucks. Pasley is investigating whether customer service can be improved by pushing that link all the way to computers in drivers' hands.
The test includes AT&T Wireless' GPRS network and Bluetooth connections between a driver's handheld and a smart phone. Such a setup could tell a courier about a new pickup request elsewhere in a building in which she's making a delivery. She could also more quickly alert FedEx sales staff to new opportunities. Some shipping information could even be pushed back to customers' own networks, Pasley says. Any rollout of the service would wait until next summer. Says Pasley: "We have 40,000 couriers, so we can't just throw the switch on this."