Microsoft Hopes to Go Postal

Microsoft is marketing an RFID (radio frequency identification device) package for postal services at a stamp exhibition in Taiwan, hoping to woo the government's post office and potentially forge a new line of business for the software maker.

The technology Microsoft has on offer allows a postal service, the package sender, and the receiver to view exactly where the package is at all times. It also notifies a receiver when the package will arrive and alerts senders via MSN Messenger or a mobile phone SMS (Short Message Service) after it has been signed for at its destination.

"Most postal services worldwide are trying to adopt this [type of] technology. Microsoft paid some sponsorship for this show because we'd like to provide this technology to Taiwan's post office," says Dragon Shyy, a senior consultant at the Microsoft Technology Center in Taipei.

The RFID tag is about the size of a playing card, with a sticker on one side to hold it to a package. It contains information about the package's contents, the sender, and the destination. Aside from tracking, it also helps smooth out the mailing process by telling other electronic devices, like mail sorting machines, where the package needs to go, Shyy says.

Working Together

Microsoft makes the software for the RFID package and works with hardware companies such as Texas Instruments for the chips and the other technology. Part of the software is for the messaging and tracking. Microsoft also offers Web site software that allows post offices to take orders online, so that customers don't have to stand in long lines to fill out forms for the package, Shyy says.

Taiwan's Chunghwa Post has not decided yet if it will use the Microsoft RFID technology package, Shyy says.

Microsoft has also held talks with India's postal service about using the RFID system, although those discussions were very preliminary, a representative at Microsoft India says.

India has not yet issued a tender offer for such a system, but if RFID were to be deployed by India's postal service it would likely be for its premium SpeedPost service, the representative says.

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