Communication is an integral feature of the human experience, without this vital aspect of our consciousness we would not be able to evolve the way that we have. Our fundamental capability to send and receive information to each other is the foundation of the systems we have created and operate in.
If we take a look back into our history, the notion of ‘shipment tracking’ as a facet of communication to inform another party of valuable information can be seen as early on as the creation of visual signals, for example fires or smoke that were used to inform people of what is happening close by, as well as through the domestication of animals as trade began to flourish between communities. We’ve come a long way since the time of messenger birds and relying on the ‘pigeon post’ to receive messages from afar. Today, literally through the touch of our fingers not only can we communicate, but also rely on those words being sent and received instantly.
The idea of shipment tracking has become an almost necessary world order in the last few years. This simple process which makes accessible and available a package’s last known location is the backbone of the digital supply chain. The access to knowledge of when something will arrive enables a more efficient process to be in place. This phenomenon of ‘tracking’ has been around since some of our earliest human civilizations.
The first ever known courier service was established by the Ancient Egyptians in 2,400 BCE. Papyrus scrolls were transported through people - mostly the Kingdom’s slave labor, as well as raw materials for buildings, linking military posts and more. Ancient Romans had a similar service in place, and also systemized the process by using feathers from different birds to indicate the level of importance of the message.
The United States Post Office, founded around the time of the American Revolution was an important step in establishing a system that adhered to standardized rates for sharing information, until this milestone, the process of tracking had mostly remained stagnant. And then in 1844 was born the telegram, an absolute game changer for the world of communication. It was now possible to communicate across long distances, wherever you were in the world. Not very long after this, the ‘electronic printing telegraph’ was invented – the first ever fax machine. All of which helped make way for easier platforms to share and access shipment tracking information.
As the 1860s set in, and the California Gold Rush paved way for the big migration and more trade, The Pony Express set a real precedent by offering ‘expedited service’. This eventually enabled faster movement of shipments along the Trans-Continental Railroad, as well as the use of telegram lines to share information. And once the mother of all communication was invented – the telephone, quicker and newer ways to obtain more information about shipment tracking were now accessible.
With cars and trucks having been invented at the turn of the century, 1907 saw the founding of UPS as the first ever carrier service to pick up and move freight, and doing so all while providing updates of necessary information from key transit points through the use of the landline telephone; truly a significant milestone in the journey of communication.
Under the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, The United States Post Office became the United States Postal Service, marking itself as an independent agency and the official mail courier of the country. This paved the way for companies working in the field of package shipment and transportation.
At this point the telephone was still the primary mode of shipment tracking communication, and continued to be so for a few more decades, up until the arrival of the internet in all its glory of digitizing what we once knew as mundane manual efforts. The internet was a true game changer for many things, but perhaps stands as an extremely significant moment in the history and evolution of the world of communication and specifically shipment tracking. It brought forward the option of sharing information much faster than through the telephone and fax.
E-mailing people tracking information became the primary way of relaying this information. However in its initial outspread, the total amount of internet users were significantly much smaller than today, which meant that tracking notifications being sent and received on email was mostly just a business-to-business function.
As the digital universe began to expand further post the 90’s as we set into the 2000’s, email notifications gained much more traction. Perhaps it is safe to say that the real adoption of tracking via the internet only truly came with its full force once Apple and AT&T put out the first ever browser-based functionality phone device – the iPhone; creating a mode of instant access to information. This enabled companies to start offering free tracking services.
Amazon was the first company to build a legitimate path for digital tracking functionality in the world of e-commerce. A few major shipment carriers were already using limited online servers to offer status updates, however they were not very straightforward and unable to share information with smaller business unless there was an application of advanced coding knowledge. As the ability to receive push notifications for shipment tracking became an actual possibility, the momentum was recently taken forward by the offering of access to real-time location data for packages.
The evolution continues, with UPS being the first major American package carrier to launch the ‘Follow My Delivery’ feature. This tool places packages on an interactive map which allows customers to track their packages in real-time. In the world we live in today, the access to this kind of actual real-time information is the driving force behind many purchases, and is slowly becoming the foundational value of many efficient and systemized business strategies.