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POST-EXPO 2017 welcomed more than 3,500 visitors and featured more exciting new products and technologies than ever before in Geneva, Switzerland, this year.

• More than 3,500 attendees from 100 different countries came to see a diverse range of emerging technologies in the postal sector, from droids and electric vehicles to sortation and scanning technologies.

• Running alongside the exhibition, POST-EXPO 2017 Conference saw more than 70 speakers present on the most important topics in the postal sector, from how to adopt innovative practices into posts, to the growth in e-commerce and updates on cross-border regulations.

• Postal and Parcel Technology International Award winners and the Postal Innovation Platform Startup of the Year were announced at drinks reception.

• Next year’s show will take place on October 9-11 in Hamburg, Germany.

Tony Robinson, CEO of UKi Media and Events and founder of POST-EXPO said, “This year’s POST-EXPO has been really good, one of the best. An easy monitor for how satisfied exhibitors are is the very high level of bookings already made for next year, when POST-EXPO will return to Hamburg. That city is the ‘spiritual home’ of the show as it was there that Post Expo was first staged back in 1997.

“We have seen a record global turnout by reference to countries that have attended, well in excess of 100 countries visited this show and there is really good feedback on the new technologies being presented. All in all, an excellent year!’

Exhibition highlights

French startup TwinswHeel is typical of the type of innovation shown at POST-EXPO 2017. The company’s delivery droid could be seen roving the exhibition floor every day, attracting the attention of visitors.

Twinswheel has developed two versions of its robotic ground vehicle, one with a 40kg cargo capacity and one with a 120kg cargo capacity. The robot, which uses a 360° 3D lidar to detect obstructions, operates in three modes: a follow me tracking mode, a remote control mode and an autonomous mode.

The autonomous mode works only within indoor environments so far. The company has sold four droids that are being used in factories and offices – to Renault Nissan, Siemens and French train firm SNCF. Another 10 will be sold before the end of the year.

Vincent Talon, chief technology officer for TwinswHeel, said post and parcel companies will be able to use the droid for autonomous deliveries in 2020: “There’s been a lot of interest at the show in the droid. We are talking to posts about how to best adapt the droid and co-develop it for use in final-mile deliveries.

“The droid will help workers, who will be able to delegate low value logistics tasks to it. It’s reliable and cheap enough, around €25,000 (US$29,500) a year, to operate in this sector now.”

Meanwhile Renault were using POST-EXPO to showcase their fully electric delivery van, the Master Z.E., which will be available for sale from the beginning of 2018. The Master Z.E. will be the first fully electric heavy van on the market from a generalist brand. The van has a range of up to 120km when loaded (real driving conditions) and takes six hours to fully charge. One hour of charge, for example during a lunch break, will give an extra 35km range.

“There’s been a lot of interest in the electric version of the Master”, said Arnaud Giovannetti, European LCV brand manager at Renault. “There are a lot of post and delivery companies around the world who already drive Master today that we know want electric. It is important in terms of emissions, and because some cities will be restricting entry only for fossil-fuel free vehicles to their centers in the future.”

Software and scanning

Delivery management software company FarEye released details of its forthcoming customer satisfaction measurement tools at POST-EXPO 2017.

The “Delivery Happiness Platform” is due to be made available in the next update of its software at the end of October 2017. It will be available in the form of a web application for customers that gives them information on shipment status, ETA and live location of the shipment, and lets them rate a delivery experience.

The application will enable delivery companies to collect feedback and measure customer satisfaction every day.

Kushal Nahata, CEO and co-founder of FarEye, said, “Delivery companies measure efficiency at the moment, but not happiness. The data will tell them, for example, who are the best delivery workers and which regions have the most satisfied customers.

“It could also be used to gamify and incentivize your workforce, in the form of rewards or leader boards. It will let managers react quicker to customer problems. We are giving delivery firms the tools to improve their customer satisfaction.

Gautam Kumar, chief operating officer and co-founder of FarEye, added, “The show lets us meet with our existing customers and a lot of new prospective customers in one place. For us it’s important to get access to these industry people from Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia in one place because we are expanding internationally so fast.”

Elsewhere Scandit showed the latest developments in its cross-platform scanning software at POST-EXPO. The primary advantage of Scandit’s software is cost – a customer does not have to purchase barcode scanners, instead software in the form of apps can be installed on workers’ own smartphones.

The latest feature of Scandit’s software was launched during the summer and shown off at POST-EXPO 2017. Matrix Scan supports augmented reality and displays information about the barcode being scanned on the screen of the device.

Christian Schilling, vice president of sales, Central and Eastern Europe, Scandit, said, “We’ve also combined this with Optical Character Recognition, so we decode the barcode and compare it with a data in a central database. This can be used in location codes for deliveries, for example showing up if a parcel is in the wrong place.

“It’s been a great show with lots of good quality people and lots of international people. It’s reassuring to see them travel from all over the world to be here.”

Sorting and vision systems

Meanwhile, intralogistics provider Beumer used POST-EXPO to show off its latest product, the line sorter, which will be available early 2018. The line sorter, which has a lower capacity than its loop sorter, is aimed at use in medium-sized parcel sorting centers, a new market segment for the company.

The line sorter is based on the same well-proven technology as Beumer’s loop sorter and has high levels of friction, which pushes the item into the discharge chute. It can handle 10,000 items per hour.

The key difference with the loop sorter, apart from size, is its improved ability to handle a wide variety of parcels, such as polybags, which will not get caught up in the conveyor belt. Instead of a sliding shoe mechanism, each sorter ‘cart’ uses a slat-belt to slide the item into the discharge chute.

Peter Elmvang, marketing director, Beumer, said, “Companies are building smaller depots inside cities and need smaller systems with less capacity. Parcels is also a very competitive business, and the line sorter is more affordable with a reduced capex.”

“It takes years to come up with a new product and we think this is going to have a very big impact on the market. Our line sorter is a beast, it will accept anything.”

Nearby, the Pitney Bowes stand was dominated by its flagship Vantage high output mail sorter machine, which it was showing in Europe for the first time equipped with its in-line metering function.

The Vantage is the only high-speed sorter with the capability to meter mail in-line at speeds of more than 24km/h. In-line metering eliminates the need for manual metering or separating mail, enabling operators to process mail automatically. It also simplifies workflow to enable more efficient mail processing.

The company also announced an extension to its data and software portfolio at POST-EXPO, which aims to enable businesses to better integrate customers’ locations into their operations. The updates to Pitney Bowes’s Spectrum software mean it can incorporate address, location and customer data information to create a single view of a customer. It can also create customized datasets that organizations can deploy to supplement existing investments in business intelligence infrastructure.

Grant Miller, chief operating officer, Pitney Bowes, said, “As e-commerce is driving unprecedented change, the eyes of the world are on our industry. Digital and physical technologies are helping businesses meet consumers’ high service expectations.

“Since the last POST-EXPO, the pace of change has been lightning-fast with accelerated delivery times, advanced tracking software and autonomous vehicles now becoming reality. POST-EXPO has become one of the world’s greatest showgrounds for the very latest in industry design and innovation. The best of what the industry has to offer is here today”.

In parcel sorting, Danish postal solutions provider Lyngsoe Systems and what3words announced the development of an address reading system that can scan what3words’ three-word addresses. The solution has been integrated into Lyngsoe Systems’s Manual Image Capturing Stations (MICS), and was demonstrated for the first time at POST-EXPO 2017.

what3words’s global addressing system divides the world into 57 trillion 3x3m squares, each with a unique address made of three dictionary words. The three-word addresses follow a consistent format and are optimized for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning.

Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words, said, “The impact of three-word addresses on last-mile deliveries is clear, and we believe they can increase efficiency in other, less visible parts of the process, like mail-sorting”.

Lyngsoe Systems’s MICS camera scans the three-word addresses and assigns them to the correct bin. The sorting bins are predefined by each postal operator, allowing for a tailored solution. Lyngsoe says the MICS camera is cost efficient, quick to implement, and requires limited training of staff.

Business announcements

Postal and parcel companies also used POST-EXPO 2017 to make announcements about their businesses. Point-of-service software provider Escher launched a complete brand refresh at this year’s POST-EXPO. The redesigned logo aims to reinforce the company’s commitment to postal operators during this time of emerging technology and growing consumer demand.

Fionnuala Higgins, chief commercial officer, Escher, said, “We are continually evolving as a company and a priority of that evolution was to better position Escher to reflect our commitment to being a trusted adviser for posts.

The first private postal company from Iran also made its global debut to the postal and parcel industry at the POST-EXPO show.

Courier firm Tipax won a government-run auction to be Iran’s first private postal operator earlier this year. From March 2018, the company will work alongside government-owned operator Iran Post as the country’s first private postal operators.

Yasmine Kiani, director of international relations, Tipax, said, “The government wants to restructure the postal market and expand and improve the delivery system to support the intense boom in e-commerce in Iran. There is a lot of opportunity, but there are issues with some of the postal services and infrastructure that restrict the growth.

“POST-EXPO 2017 is the first time overseas for Tipax. We have a roadmap to follow and we want to form partnerships with technology providers, hardware and software, to speed that up.”

Conference highlights

At this year’s show, attendees could select from three different streams during the course of the three-day conference: The World Postal Business Forum Organised by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), The Innovation Conference, and The Postal Innovation Platform.

Bishar A Hussein, director general of the UPU, used his opening keynote to highlight that technology was the single factor profoundly impacting the post and must be harnessed to the sector’s advantage. “At the UPU, we believe that the postal sector can use technology to address deficiencies in global supply chains,” he said.

“As an intergovernmental organization tasked with postal development in the world, the UPU is very much concerned with the linkages between national physical and digital infrastructures.”

Hussein added that while the uptake of the internet has accelerated mail substitution, it has also fuelled the growth of e-commerce, which is one of the greatest opportunities facing the sector, and that posts’ adoption of technology would be critical to ensuring the cross-border transfer of e-commerce items.

In the Innovation Conference, attendees were bought up-to-date about the latest technology and ideas in areas such as the Internet of Things, Blockchain technology, automation and last-mile delivery. Conference attendee, Violetta Jacobson, marketing specialist from USPS, said, “The sessions have been thought-provoking in the order of the perspectives of the different posts that have been shown. I was very impressed by Brazil Post and Posti’s presentations, where they showed that to use their assets as posts to create other businesses, it’s not just partnerships that are essential, but that thinking outside of the box is also needed.”

Also, in the Postal Innovation Platform (PIP) conference, attendees watched 12 postal startups pitch a panel of experts for a chance to further develop their business ideas with Swiss Post. This was followed by a series of sessions on technology such as geo-location and future visions for the postal industry. Attendee at the conference, Graeme Lee, senior partner, Sunflower Associates, said, “There’s been some great sessions this year. The PIP Startup Innovation Jury was very positive with lots of slick, quick presentations. The sessions on innovation and technology were full, with the content really well presented and pitched to stimulate debate.”

Awards ceremony

The winners of the Postal and Parcel Technology International Awards 2017 were also announced during POST-EXPO, with Swiss Post winning Service Provider of the Year and Prime Vision winning Supplier of the Year. The full list of winners can be viewed here.

For the first year, the winner of the PIP Startup Innovation Jury was also announced alongside the Postal and Parcel Technology International Award winners. The startup competition was won by London-based Unmanned life, which has developed software that can manage both air and ground-based drones and co-ordinate their activities.

Next year

After a successful 2017, the organizers are now preparing to deliver an even greater show for 2018. POST-EXPO 2018 will be held on October 9-11, in Hamburg, Germany. See you there! 

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