FedEx Invented the Tracking Number

The tracking number, that string of digits that tell you where your package is and when it's going to be delivered, is so ubiquitous today that you'd probably never believe that there was a time before its existence.

Yet, this obvious piece of information didn't exist before FedEx (then Federal Express) created it forty years ago:

One of FedEx’s great contributions was the tracking number, which has become a standard in shipping. By entering a numeric string into FedEx.com, you can find out exactly where your package is as it works it way toward you. It’s immensely convenient, but that is but a pleasant side-effect. The tracking number was initially an internal process for quality control.

The system, launched in the late 1970s, was created to improve efficiencies. It worked so well that, in 1979, the system was offered to customers as COSMOS (Customers, Operations and Services Master Online System). When the system went online it included early prototypes of handheld computers that scanned package barcodes with wands. FedEx was aware that of the importance of all this data. FedEx founder Fred Smith is famous for saying, “The information about the package is as important as the package itself.”

Roberto Baldwin of Wired has the post: Link


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fedexs tracking system kinda works against them now because you can actually see how messed up and unorganized their network is. A package can be at a sorting center a couple hundred miles away one day then go to another sorting center in another state the next, then it'll go back to the first center and be delivered 2 days later
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