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Post Office gets high-tech help

The Postal Service will purchase a whopping 300,000 handheld data collection devices, similar to the ones used by FedEx and UPS.

The Postal Service will soon make its rounds with some high-tech help from Charlotte, North Carolina-based Hand Held Products.

The Postal Service will purchase more than 300,000 handheld data collection devices to assist in package tracking and proof-of-delivery in a fashion similar to the methods employed by Federal Express and UPS. A national roll-out to more than 32,000 post offices will occur in 1998, it was announced.

To put the order in perspective, Frost & Sullivan estimated that just over 400,000 handheld data terminals were sold in all of 1995, the last year the firm collected data on the market. The market will continue to grow, with Frost predicting 22.3 percent unit volume growth through the year 2002. Revenues are expected to reach $1.77 billion by that time.

"You're starting to see more and more companies use data-tracking devices in industrial settings to be able to track assets and inventory," says Shannon Worthen, industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan. "These devices are becoming much more powerful than they used to be, and they are moving towards open systems where can you do things like run Microsoft Windows programs."

Hand Held's Dolphin product uses AMD's Elan SC310 processor, a chip compatible with Intel's 386SX, several generations removed from the processors used in today's computers. The device can be programmed using common industry-standard software development tools, according to the company.

Lockheed Martin was awarded the $218 million contract to do systems integration, application programming, and installation of the Dolphin terminals, while New York-based Symbol Technologies will manufacture the devices.