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The Circular Economy

Circular Economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system. Minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.

“The Circular Economy – A new sustainability paradigm?”

After 2 years of researching, I finally took the leap and purchased an Electric Vehicle (EV).

In doing my research I noticed car reviews were always asking about the EV’s battery at the end of its life.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

This is an excellent question which was concerning for me as well.

Conversely, this was a different conversation than is for Internal Combustion Engines (ICE).

Think about it, when did you last read a car review asking what will happen to an ICE engine.

Granted that, vehicles are the most recycled products in the world; however, the conversation about EV batteries reflects an increase consciousness of the Circular Economy.

In short, a recent survey conducted by Accenture found:

  • that, most importantly, 83% of respondents said its important or extremely important for companies to design a product that is meant to be reused or recycled.
  • likewise, a further 72% of respondents said they’re currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they were five years ago.

What does this mean for Reverse logistics?

Reverse Logistics. A complete supply chain dedicated to the reverse flow of products and materials for the purpose of returns, repair, remanufacture, and/or recycling.

Reverse Logistics Association

The reuse and recycling of returned products, combined with the era of free returns, places a lot of demand for Reverse Logistics .

As such, experts estimate the world wide reverse logistics market value at US $967.89 Billion. Likewise, they further estimate a growth of 5.9% CAGR

What Does this mean for the Final Mile ?

Final Mile is a phrase widely used to refer to the final leg of a delivery. Final Mile is also known as Last Mile.

The increase volume of products flowing back from the consumer is placing pressure onto Final Mile and Logistics companies.

Interestingly, with the mass adoption of smart mobile devices starting in 2007, the final mile industry has gone from 2 way radios, pigeonholes, paper slips and excel sheets to real time tracking, online entry and automated routing. Sadly, most are using this technology only for “forward” logistics.

  • Only 6% of the companies who use our technology for forward logistics are using any technology for reverse logistics.
  • Moreover, 34% are using excel sheets, paper based or are using nothing at all. Some are simply providing no tracking.
  • Surprisingly, 60% don’t participate in the final mile of Reverse Logistics. Though they could easily take part.

Why is this?

Simply put, it comes down to, “is the struggle worth the outcome”.

Because most Final Mile Forward Logistics technology doesn’t fit the needs of Reverse Logistics that means a technology investment needs to be made.

Here are some good reasons why you need to invest in the Final Mile Reverse Logistics chain:

  1. Illicit Trade. Theft during the Final Mile helps to fuel illicit trade.
  2. Brand Protection. The resale of damaged goods through illicit markets damages the perception of a product’s brand.
  3. Data Gap. This can be broken down into 2 categories which are:
    • Big Picture. Decision makers need the data from each silo to see the big picture and make decisions. Paper and Excel doesn’t provide the Final Mile Reverse Logistics data to the decision makers. A proper Reverse Logistics Final Mile technology solution will provide the needed data.
    • Predict and Prepare the Returns Center. Operation Managers need the data to see the final mile picture. This will allow them to prepare for the change of flow back at the Returns Centers.

How do we address this?

Previously, I wrote a blog discussing Innovative Ways to Pick Up a Return which laid out two ways to address Reverse Logistics in the final mile space. These two was are:

  1. Use your drivers as a resource. Have your drivers scan the product being returned at the point of pick up. They check the return product and quantities instead of at the Returns Center, saving you time and money. This also starts the tracking and tracing of those returned goods right away, not later at a hub or warehouse.
  2. Pick Up and Go. With the product already securely packaged you can capture a Proof of Pick Up (POP) and Time of Pick Up to start the tracking and tracing of those goods

Looking Forward with Technology


Organizations and manufacturers are creating unique hash keys for each product that then connects to its unique block chain record. With this in mind, connecting Reverse Logistics Final Mile technology to access a product’s block chain record adds extra layers to security, tracking and auditing.

For instance, Blockchain can confirm the right product at the point of pick up.

Most importantly, Blockchain can assist with sorting by ensuring the right product goes into the right shipping container going to the right location.

Similarly, blockchain helps to correctly place products into a “destruction” shipping container. Which means you can confidently create “death certificates” en mass for all products inside a “destruction” trailer.


You maybe surprised to know there is a new technological upgrade which is being quietly deployed with little notice, that is Dual GNSS GPS.

Dual GNSS GPS brings mobile GPS accuracy down from 5 meters (16 feet) to 30 cm (12 inches) and consistently.

There are two reasons why this hidden upgrade will have a positive effect on Reverse Logistics, they are:

  1. Creating Shipments in the Field. Unfortunately, with Reverse Logistics, drivers can arrive at pick up locations without an electronic shipment. For that reason a driver needs to use their mobile device to create a shipment, in the field, at the point of pick up. Thankfully GPS coordinates can accurately be geolocated to an address using the consistent refined accuracy of Dual GNSS GPS. Using the geolocated Pick Up Address a shipment is created. As a result tracking and tracing can take place right from the point of pick up.
  2. Chain of Custody. Proving a pick up location when returning controlled substances like pharmaceuticals, cannabis and tobacco has relied heavily on location barcodes. As a result, the cost of implementing and managing location barcodes has been a burden since the ’70s. With the real and consistent accurate GPS coordinates captured by Dual GNSS GPS, location barcodes will become a thing of the past.

In summary, the consumer engagement into the Circular Economy is putting more and more pressure on the Final Mile industry. But by using the right technology, Reverse Logistics can become a source of gain and no longer a source for pain.

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CLDA Conference 2020

Even though IDS has been part of the Courier, Delivery and Logistics Industry for 13+ years, we never joined the CLDA nor attended it’s annual conference.

This year, I decided to fix that and attended the 2020 Conference in Miami.

My goals were simple:

  1. Learn more about the US market.
  2. Explore the Vendor Marketplace
  3. Decide if IDS should set up a Vendor Display at the 2021 Conference.

From Wednesday evening right up to Friday afternoon, I was constantly fascinated by what I was learning, hearing and seeing.

The word I heard most often was …Amazon.

In my market space, which is mainly Australia and Canada, the “Amazon effect” is not at the same level as it is in the US.

Here is a great article explaining why.

The highlight of the Amazon discussion was attending the “E-commerce and Final Mile” panel and hearing Deanna Kaufman from FedEx Customer Solutions speak. That lead into a few interesting side conversations about how Amazon will either become the next FedEx or Amazon’s rule bending will catch up to it.

Then there was all the Technology discussions

IDS is technology, that is what we do. So, I really enjoyed attending the “Operational Efficiencies Using Innovative Technologies” panel which was hosted by the articulate Robin Hammond from the Bullitt Group.

What I heard was companies were looking to technology, not to create new opportunities, but to solve pain points.

I thought this was fascinating. As one person explained to me, the US market has grown so fast, that most companies are just trying to keep up.

My personal new “bleeding edge” technology is GPS 3 and Dual GNSS.  These “new technologies” will increase the accuracy of GPS down to less than 1 metre and provide a new level of consistence. Could this mean the end of location barcodes? (

While my notebook is filled with pages and pages from the conference, I will end this blog with a quick note about the future of or our membership with CLDA. I found the association, its members and the conference open, intelligent and a thoughtful group. We will return in 2021.

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July 22, 2009 to January 14, 2020

Did you know that on January 14, 2020, Microsoft will drop all support for Windows 7.  

Yet, according to Global Stats, as of June 2019, 31% of all Windows computers are still operating on Windows 7.

credit: GlobalStats

What will happen to all those Windows 7 computers on January 15, 2020?

According to Microsoft’s Official Website, “You can continue to use Windows 7, but once support ends, your PC will become more vulnerable to security risks. Windows will operate but you will stop receiving security and feature updates.”

You might think so what’s the big deal then?

According to AVTest The independent IT-Security Institute out of Germany over 350,000 new malicious programs are registered everyday!

That means by February 15, 2020, Windows 7 users will have little to no protection for over 9 million new malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUA).

After a year, that number rises to 127,750,000.

Hackers will be looking to exploit the lack of updates and will specifically attack Windows 7 computers.

It will also mean software and hardware developers will take Microsoft’s signal and stop providing updates and upgrades for Windows 7 users.

This will mean, not only will some of your software stop functioning properly, it also means your peripherals, like your GPU, Network Cards and your mouse may stop working.

If you are one of the holdouts, maybe its time consider upgrading.

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You think you know, but really, do you?

This is the first in series of articles about Barcodes, how they work, innovative ways they are being used and what is next.

The Barcode

In 1948, Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland started research into creating a cash register that could read a product’s label and automatically enter in the correct price. The goal being to speed up and reduce errors during the check out process.

Their first challenge was how to make a product’s label “readable” for a machine.

To solve this, they used technology that was readily available to them in the 1940’s. That being the telegraph.

Before we could transmit our voice through radio waves, we transmitted tapping sounds over wires. The tapping was Morse Code and the machine that made the tapping sound was the Telegraph.

How that tapping or Morse Code worked was simple. If you made 3 quick taps, then 3 long taps and then 3 quick taps, you were saying S.O.S. Where 3 quick taps meant the letter S and 3 long taps meant the letter O.

These taps would be visually represented as dots and dashes. So our S.O.S would look like this:

Woodland’s brilliant idea was to turn Morse Code’s dots and dashing into lines which could then be “read” by a machine.

Using sand on the beach in front of his father’s Florida home, “I just extended the dots and dashes downwards and made narrow lines and wide lines out of them”, said Woodland (Seideman, Tony, “Barcodes Sweep the World”, Wonders of Modern Technology)

Meaning our Morse Code S.O.S. would now look like this:

But there was a problem.

Woodland and Silver realized that their new code would always have to be scanned straight on to ensure the scanner would read their code from left to right.

Meaning, if the code said “coke” and you scanned it upside down, then it would be read as “ekoc”.

Their solution was to create the Circular Barcode, which could be scanned from any angle.

Woodland & Silver’s Original Circular Barcode. Credit: Barcode Imaging Materials

Their Circular Barcodes was the Great Grandparent of the QA Barcode.

The Scanner

Now that Woodland and Silver had their barcode, they needed a way for a cash register to read it. So again, they turned to popular technology that was widely in used in the 40’s. That technology being movies.

When movies first came into being, they were silent. The challenge was how to add sound. The solution was to add the sound directly onto the edge of the film strip as an image of a sound wave.

an old film strip showing the sounds waves along the edge

When the projector shone light through the film onto the movie screen, it also illuminated the images of the sound waves. On the opposite side of the film strip edge was a Photomultiplier.

A Photomultiplier takes light particles, which are known as photons, and turns them into electrons.

As the photons projected through the images of the sound waves changed, then so did the electron flow produced by the Photomultiplier. This changing electron flow created an electric signal. The electric signal was then converted to sounds via an amplifier and a speaker system.

So when Woodland and Silver needed a way for a machine to read their barcodes, they simply adapted the movie sound technology. They did this by shinning a 500-watt light bulb through the barcode and onto a Photomultiplier. But instead of turning the created electronic signal into sound, they converted the signal back into the original letters and numbers of the barcode.

Putting it together

Now that we have a barcode and scanner, we need to put it together so that our cash register would charge the right price.

Imagine if we had a bottle of Coke. We then created a barcode using our converted Morse Code to spelled out the word, “Coke”. We then fastened our barcode onto our bottle.

We then connected our scanner to a computer and scanned our barcode.

The scanner reads the barcode and tells the computer, “Coke”.

The computer then looks up in its’ database the word “Coke”, finds a record that says a Coke costs $1.25 and then display’s on its monitor “Coke $1.25”.

And that’s the magic of barcoding.

But wait! we are not done yet.

We don’t use Morse Code for barcodes and the linear barcode became the standard.  But why?

In 1949 Woodland and Silver filed a patent for their barcode and scanner, which was granted in 1952. They then quickly sold their patent which ended up in the hands of RCA.

While they were waiting for their patent’s approval, and this is important, Woodland started working at IBM.

In 1966, RCA attended a meeting held by the National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) on how to create an automated check out system. The meeting resulted in an agreement to initiate an internal project to test Woodland and Silver’s barcode patent.

In July 1972, RCA and the Kroger Store in Cincinnati started an 18-month test of the Woodland and Silver’s circular barcode. Sadly, their test kept failing because when the printers created the circular barcode, the ink would smear which then made the barcodes unscannable.

Back at IBM, Woodland was still working on his original linear barcode. He discovered that linear barcodes wouldn’t smear because they were printed in the same direction as the stripes.  

But there was still the issue that linear barcodes could only be scanned from one direction.

Thankfully, Woodland’s colleague at IBM, George Laure, overcame this last hurdle by creating the following barcode format standard:

  • The first digit was always a 0.
  • The next 5 digits was the manufacturer code.
  • Which was followed by 6 more digits for the product code
  • With the final digit being a check digit to ensure the barcode was read correctly.

With the barcode always starting with a 0 and ending with a check digit, the scanner and computer always knew, regardless at what angle it was being scanned, which way to read the barcode.

an example of IBM’s UPC

Woodlands Linear Barcode combined with Laure’s format became IBM’s UPC (Universal Product Code) which on the April 3, 1973 was selected to be the NAFC standard.

IBM’s UPC is still widely used today as the standard for the retail industry. However, there are now countless number of other barcode formats in use today, such as EAN, Industrial, Interleaved, Standard, PostNet, Code 11, Codabar and QR Barcodes.

So now you know how barcodes work.