Major update to mobile devices.

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of attention given to 5G and how it will change so much in our society. (Learn more about 5G, by reading 5G – The Hype and the Reality)

But there is a major update to our mobile devices that is getting little to no attention. Without this update, 5G’s impact on our society will be greatly diminished.

That update is the roll out of the next generation of GPS.

In this article I will explain how GPS works, debunk some of the myths, then explain the GPS update and why it is needed.

How GPS Works.

Let me explain how GPS works, you maybe surprised. 

A Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of at least 24 satellites. Each one of these satellites travels around the earth two times a day each transmiting a unique radio signal.

This is a one-way signal; GPS satellites do not receive a signal from your mobile device.

This signal is saying, “At this time, the satellite is at this location”. Your mobile device then uses this information to figure out the distance between itself and the GPS satellite.

How is distance is calculated?

Remember the last time you watched a firework display. You saw the firework explode then a few seconds later you heard the explosion. That’s because the sound had to travel over a distance to reach your ears.

Now imagine your friend is standing the same distance away with a loud speaker shouting out the current time.

They yell into the loud speaker, “its 10:01 am”. By the time you hear, “its 10:01“, its now 10:02 am. That means it took 1 second for their voice to reach your ears. Knowing that sounds travels at a speed of 343 meters per second (1125 feet per second), we can quickly calculate your friend is 343 meters (1125 feet) away from you.

That’s exactly how the GPS Satellite signal works. When a signal from a GPS Satellite is received by our mobile device, our device can calculate the distance between itself and the GPS Satellite. Except the signal is traveling at the speed of light which is 299,979 km per second (186,282 miles per second)

Now that we know the distance from a single GPS satellite then how do we know our location.

We use a process called trilateration.

Using a simple two-dimensional example, let’s imagine we have three GPS satellites each with a known position in space.

3 GPS Satellites in space

The first satellite broadcasts a signal and our mobile device calculates the distance between itself and satellite 1.   

We then can draw a circle, equal to the calculated distance, around satellite 1.

We calculate the distance GPS Satellite 1 and our device

Now we receive a signal from a second satellite, we calculate the distance and draw another circle.

We calculate the distance between GPS Satellite 2 and plot 2 possible locations of our device

With two satellite’s, we can see that our mobile device could be at either of the two places where the circles intersect (red dots).

If we add our third satellite, we can pinpoint our location (red dot).

We calculate the distance between Satellite 3 and we now can pinpoint our location

Myths.

If we are to believe Hollywood, we would believe that GPS can consistently locate our precise location within centimeters (half an inch). All we have to do to confirm our belief is turn on Google Maps and ask for directions.

But….

Google Maps and other GPS mapping apps are using a bit of smoke and mirrors. The true reality is, that at best, these apps can locate our phones within a 5 meters (16 feet) radius. And that’s under an open sky away from buildings, bridges and trees. Most of the time its around 12 to 15 meters (40 to 50 feet)

If you have ever used a “find my phone” app to locate your phone somewhere in your house, you will know, that the app cant pinpoint your phone under your chair’s cushion.

The app might even incorrectly show the phone is in your neighbour’s house.

The trick that most GPS navigation systems use is to look at your calculated GPS location and direction and then guess which road or path you maybe on.

Then the question arises, “who cares, if the smoke and mirrors are working, why change it.”

Imagine two self driving vehicles are approaching an intersection using our current GPS technology. They both “think” they know where they are, but they could both be off by 5 meters (16 feet) or more.

Or imagine that Boston Dynamics has finally produced a commercially viable automatous robot and it is trying to navigate along a very fine pathway.

I think we can see what could happen.

5G’s promises autonomous vehicles. But what’s truly the point, if all of these devices only know where they are within a 5 meters (16 feet) radius.

For us in the delivery industry, this margin of error is why we are still use location barcodes. Proving a shipment was delivered to a certain location simply cant work in an urban setting when the location is off by 5 meters (16 feet) or worse.

The Big GPS Update

In our explanation above, our mobile device is only receiving a single signal from our GPS satellites using one bandwidth. But, here is the thing, those satellites are transmitting multiple signals on different frequencies.

Multiple signal GPS devices are called Dual-Band GNSS (aka Multi-Band)

Up until recently, dual-band receivers would cost $5000 or more. But now low-cost Dual-GNSS chips are making their way into our consumer grade mobile devices.

By receiving two signals with varying bandwidths from our satellites, we can over come signal loss from weather, buildings and bridges. Which also means, we have a greater chance locking into more GPS satellites at one time, which means better accuracy.

On top of the cost reduction of Dual-Band GNSS chips, a set of new more robust satellite have also come on-line.

All of this simple means, if your mobile device has a new Dual-Band GNSS receiver, then two things will happen:

  1. Two times reduction in positioning error.
  2. Can provide accuracy within 30 cm (1 foot)

If you want to read more, please check out this article: https://insidegnss.com/galileo-hits-the-spot-testing-gnss-dual-frequency-with-smartphones/

If you combine this new GPS update with the faster data speeds promised by 5G and include Starlinks roll out, providing faster data speeds to rural location, within a few short years, we will really start to see and experience another large leap forward in technology.  

In this blog I will answer a question I receive on a weekly basis: “How does scanning a barcode deliver a package?”

Barcodes are just Morse Code

If you want to know even more about barcodes, then take a moment to read my previous blog, “How do Barcodes Work” where I explain how barcodes were invented.

The Basics.

If you don’t have time to read the linked blog, I will break it down this way; when you scan a barcode the device translates the image into numbers and letters.

For example, if you scan this barcode:

barcode number 1

you will see the number, “1”.

If you scan this barcode:

barcode letter a

you will see the letter, “a”.

If you put them together into a single barcode:

barcode 1a

you see “1a”.

Great, so how does this help with scanning a package?

Imagine you had an Excel sheet with a list of packages. Each row listed a package’s pick-up address, delivery address, weight and piece count.

Then you assign a unique name to each package, for example “package1” and “package2”. Your Excel sheet looks like this:

shipment spreadsheet

This would allow you to quickly find a package by using the “Find” button in Excel and typing in a package name, for example “package1”.

find a shipment

Putting that all together, we can:

  1. Make a barcode that translates to “package1”
  2. Stick our barcode onto our shipment.
  3. Click the “Find” button in Excel.
  4. Scan the barcode
  5. Which translates to “Package1”
  6. Click “Find”
  7. And we find our package.

Now that we have selected our package, we can update it by changing its “status” field from “dispatched” to “picked up” or “delivered.”

update shipment to picked up after barcode scan

Essentially, when you break down all the fancy computer code, that’s what’s happening when you scan a shipment.

They key take away is: if you don’t have “Package1” listed as a name in your Excel sheet, you will not find anything when you scan “Package1”. That means all the barcodes on all your shipments must also be in your database and they must be unique for each shipment.

Locations and Chain of Custody

For those who need proof that a shipment has been delivered to the right address, then location barcodes can also be used and they are just as simple.

In our example Excel Sheet we see “Bobs Work” as a delivery address.

shipment by location address barcode

All we have to do is make a barcode that translates to “Bobs Work” and stick this by Bob’s loading dock.

example of a address barcode

When we scan the location barcode and click “Find” we can then see that “Package3” is for delivery at that Bob’s Work.

We can then add another scan for the Package Name. If anything other than a barcode that translates to “Package3” is scanned, we will simply say: “Not for this location”.

Advanced Scanning

Now that we have the basics all sorted, its time for some fun stuff. This is usually where my conversation starts with clients.

How do you scan a barcode such that it magically creates a shipment record in the software?

It’s actually very simple: you just do everything backwards.

First, you scan the location barcode and that tells you the delivery address.

Then you scan the package name barcode which tells you the unique package name.

With those 2 pieces of information, your system creates a new shipment using the matched delivery address and unique package name.

While this works most of time, I’m sure you can see some failings. What about the shipment’s pick-up address, weight, piece count, customer account, etc.

We have two options. One is some coding magic, but that’s a secret. The other is to use a different type of barcode.

Here is a “traditional” Picket Fence barcode that contains the pick-up address, delivery address, weight and piece count.

example of a long barcode


That’s just way too long for a scanner to read. If we add a street address and customer account details the barcode would not fit on our package.

One solution is QR barcodes.

Picket Fence barcodes are read horizontally from left to right, just like reading a book. Thats why when we add more information the barcode gets bigger

QR barcodes are read horizontally and vertically.

For example, here is a QR Barcode

qr shipment barcode

This barcode contains:

  1. Full pick-up address details, including street, state, country and postal/zip
  2. Full delivery address details, including street, state, country and postal/zip
  3. Weight
  4. Piece count
  5. Customer account details.

That means you could scan a QR barcode and create a shipment that doesn’t even exist in your database, which would then allow you to properly track and trace your shipment.

Its magic.

Watch IDS scan a Barcode to Deliver a Shipment

If you want to see how IDS scans a barcode to deliver a shipment click here to see and read more.

If you found this blog helpful, feel free to subscribe by completing the form in the menu on the right hand side and you will receive future blogs as they become available.  

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 consistently asked about the EV’s battery at the end of its life.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

This is an excellent question that I, too, had concerns about.

Conversely, when purchasing an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle, no reviews were asking what happens to the engine.

The conversation about EV batteries reflects an increase consciousness of the Circular Economy.

In short, a recent survey conducted by Accenture found:

  • 83% of respondents said its important or extremely important for companies to design a product that is meant to be reused or recycled.
  • 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 high demand on reverse logistics .

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

What Does this mean for the Final Mile ?

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

The increased volume of products flowing back from the consumer is increasing pressure on Final Mile and Logistics companies.

Interestingly, with the mass adoption of smart mobile devices starting in 2007, the final mile industry has progressed 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 technology for reverse logistics.
  • 34% are using excel sheets, paper-based or nothing at all. Some are simply providing no tracking.
  • 60% don’t participate in the Final Mile of reverse logistics. Though they could easily take part.

Why is this?

Simply put, companies aren’t sure whether “the struggle is worth the outcome”.

Given most Final Mile forward logistics technology doesn’t fit the needs of reverse logistics, 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. Neither paper-based tracking nor Excel provide the Final Mile reverse logistics data to decision makers. Reverse logistics Final Mile technology will provide this needed data.
    • Predict and Prepare the Returns Center. Operation Managers need this data to visualize 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 post 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 and quantity being returned at the point of pick up, 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 and a time of pick up to start the tracking and tracing of those goods

Looking Forward with Technology

Blockchain.

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 and can assist with sorting by ensuring the right product goes into the right shipping container en route 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 masse for all products inside a destruction trailer.

Dual GNSS

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

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

There are two reasons why this hidden upgrade will have a positive effect on reverse logistics:

  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 1970s. With the real and consistent accurate GPS coordinates captured by Dual GNSS GPS, location barcodes will become a thing of the past.


In summary, consumer engagement into the Circular Economy is putting more and more pressure on the Final Mile industry. By using the right technology, reverse logistics can become a source of gain and no longer a source of pain.

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? (https://www.geospatialworld.net/blogs/advantages-of-dual-frequency-gnss-in-smartphones/)

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.

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. https://support.microsoft.com/en-ca/help/12435/windows-10-upgrade-faq

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.

Watch IDS scan a shipping barcode

If you wish to learn more, please click here to watch IDS scan shipment.