Swiss Post is investigating whether the Internet of Things (IoT) can improve delivery efficiency and customer relations.
In a blog post published yesterday, Swiss Post confirmed that it is aiming to set-up a network based on LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) technology in the coming weeks, with the aim of testing various IoT applications on top of the network from the end of March.
The company, the postal service for Switzerland and the country’s second-largest employer, is testing a wide array of applications.
The firm says that these could include an Internet-connected sensor which triggers an automatic order placement every time stock runs low, or another sensor which tracks sensitive consignments on the move – ensuring that they are safe and only opened by authorised personnel.
The former would potentially allow Swiss Post to replenish the supplies of its logistics customers as and when needed, while the latter could ensure safe transportation and continuous tracking.
Swiss Post is also investing using small transmitter units, or “smart” buttons, in order to trigger a specific service on demand. For example, the postal service could notify the mail carrier in an area when home delivery service is available.
IoT powered by LoRa
LoRaWAN is an open low-power radio standard which is seen as the future of IoT deployments owing to its wide coverage and low-power requirements. It is currently being pushed by a number of reputable technology companies, including Cisco and IBM.
Swiss Post, which has been testing commercial drones since last summer, is exploring the potential of setting up its own nationwide LoRa network in order to support its logistics and implement customer-friendly services.
With its numerous physical access points as well as logistics and office locations, Swiss Post says that it is ‘well placed’ to exploit the opportunity offered through the LoRa network.
Indeed, the firm believes that it could ultimately create an infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT) in Switzerland in the near future. For now though, the firm is hoping to go live with its first test network between Berne and Biel at the end of this month.
LoRa antennas have a reach of 5 to 15 kilometres, depending on the topography. As the sensors and buttons send actual signals to the network only sporadically or on demand, the battery charging cycle has a service life of up to five years. The devices are roughly the size of a small coin and are expected to become even smaller over time.
LoRa technology does not require a SIM card or a mains connection. This also makes it suitable for use in remote or mobile applications.
LoRA is also currently being tested in London by IoTUK.