United Parcel Service recently announced "significant enhancements" to the UPS OnLine Tools, which "offer advanced shipping and logistics applications that allow businesses to seamlessly link their intranets and Internet Web sites with UPS. The tools enable customers to calculate shipping costs, select and compare shipping services, and track packages from the point of order entry to delivery. UPS is adding two new tools, enhancing two others, making all six tools available in XML and providing customers with a list of approved service providers who can help with integration. In conjunction with the tool enhancements, UPS is offering an XML version of all UPS OnLine Tools. UPS was instrumental in the development of XML protocol standards for the transportation industry through its membership in Rosettanet, a consortium of major information technology, electronic components and semiconductor manufacturing companies working to create and implement industry-wide, open e-business process standards. Two new UPS OnLine Tools which support XML are 'UPS Tracking' (provides up-to-the-minute shipment status, from origin to delivery) and 'UPS Rates & Service Selection' (lets online shoppers compare, price and select shipping services that best fit their needs and budgets). The XML tools support structured, self-descriptive, and extensible formatting of the data. XML documents have tags naming each data element allowing optional elements to be omitted and unexpected or uninteresting elements to be ignored. More than 60,000 businesses have licensed UPS OnLine Tools since their introduction in April 1999."
From the announcement:
The new tools include: (1) UPS Signature Tracking, which allows approved customers to track packages and receive the most complete proof of delivery available. Customers will receive the digitized signature of the person who signed for the delivery, the full delivery address, C.O.D. amount collected (if applicable), and the reference number associated with the delivery -- all the elements needed to create an official proof of delivery to present to their customers to expedite payment. (2) The new UPS Shipping tool will allow approved customers who ship at least 50 packages a day to enable all their employees to create and print shipping labels from their desktops. Customers can customize the interface and control which services and features are available to specific groups of employees. This tool also makes it possible for businesses to share information such as address books, shipment histories and tracking information across internal systems.
'Since their initial launch, we've worked closely with our customers to make UPS OnLine Tools more effective. Offering the tools in an XML standard will make it faster and easier for UPS customers to integrate shipping functionality into their systems, and will provide them with more flexibility and customization,' said Tim Geiken, vice president of electronic commerce, UPS. 'For instance, users now can add delivery confirmation into an invoice without opening an additional application.'