Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

UPS adopts AI to let customers track parcels

Steve Rogerson
May 24, 2017



Customers of logistics giant UPS can use an artificial-intelligence-enabled chatbot to obtain information about their incoming and recently delivered packages.
 
UPS says it is the first US package delivery company to offer a chatbot designed for authenticated users. The artificial intelligence supports its global logistics network.
 
The company has integrated its customer-facing chatbot with its My Choice account, allowing customers to obtain information about their incoming packages and recent deliveries without providing a tracking number.
 
The chatbot lets users log in to their My Choice account. It can then provide customised information, including package location and delivery detail, all without a tracking number.
 
The company launched the chatbot, an artificial-intelligence-enabled platform that mimics human conversation, last autumn through Facebook Messenger, Skype and Amazon’s Alexa voice service. The chatbot initially helped users find UPS locations, get shipping rates and track packages. Now, it lets My Choice members retrieve detailed information about their shipments more easily.
 
“The integration of our chatbot with UPS My Choice is a big leap forward for the customer service UPS offers,” said Stuart Marcus, UPS vice president of customer technology marketing. “It also marks an important step as UPS continues to deploy leading-edge technologies to bring better, easier and simpler experiences to our consumer and business customers.”
 
UPS has a long history of exploring new and emerging technologies that can benefit its operation and improve the services it offers.
 
“Artificial intelligence and machine learning, along with big data and the internet of things, underpin many of the technologies that support UPS’s global logistics network,” said Bob Myrick, UPS principal architect of customer engagement technology. “They also enable important customer-facing technologies like UPS My Choice.”
 
My Choice is a service that provides more control over how and where packages are delivered. Members receive email or text messages when their packages are on the way. Membership provides the ability to re-route eligible packages to a workplace, a neighbour’s home or a nearby access point location. More than 35 million people use the service in 15 countries.
 
The chatbot now provides My Choice members with a convenient and conversational interface. For example, they can ask the chatbot “are any packages coming to my house?” or “has anything been delivered to my house?” and receive an easy-to-understand response.
 
For now, the updated chatbot focuses on providing information about incoming packages. But UPS plans to add more sophisticated My Choice functionality to its chatbot in the near future. In the next planned iteration, members will be able to sign up for notifications via Facebook Messenger and Skype. They also will be able to manage the delivery time and location of incoming packages through this interface.
 
UPS will handle the logistics operations for World Expo 2020 Dubai, which is expected to attract millions of visitors between its opening day in October 2020 to April 2021. With more than 180 countries expected to participate and hundreds of thousands of visitors on peak days, the expo will be one the most complex logistics projects UPS has tackled.
 
As official logistics partner, UPS will provide more than 27,000 square metres of warehouse space, equivalent to four football fields, and a team of 1000 employees during the expo. The team will rely on expertise as logistics sponsor in the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
 
“We plan to expand UPS’s presence in the region by establishing capacity, technology and staff capabilities to serve customers shipping to and through Dubai, long after the expo concludes,” said David Abney, UPS chairman and CEO. “An undertaking of this scale and sophistication requires a next generation network that is smart, efficient and integrated. We share a vision of what the logistics of tomorrow will look like.”