FedEx innovation exec shares slides, story behind SenseAware service

Michelle_ProctorFedEx is known for pioneering overnight delivery in the 1970s, and then online package tracking in the 1990s. But in the last few years, the company has been positioning itself to take advantage of the so-called “Internet of Things” phenomenon, in which inexpensive wireless sensors will be able to report on a real-time basis. A FedEx innovation team has been at the center of building businesses that leverage Internet of Things technologies.

The first is called SenseAware, and it allows FedEx customers to know about the temperature, light exposure, relative humidity, and barometric pressure of a package in transit — not to mention its precise location and whether or not it has been opened yet. We talked to FedEx Director of Innovation Michelle Proctor, left, about the development of the offering, which is sold as a subscription-based service. (Several slides describing the approach of FedEx’s innovation team are below.)


The idea for SenseAware grew out of FedEx’s work with some of its healthcare clients, Proctor says, whose tissue and blood samples had very particular handling needs, like ensuring that temperatures never rose above a particular level while the samples were in transit. To meet those needs, FedEx assembled a team of more than a dozen people from varied disciplines in engineering, information technology and other specialties. The team used an agile development approach, showing prototypes to customers frequently and making changes based on their feedback during short “design sprints.”

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