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In an effort to reduce futile delivery efforts and the stranding of valuable packages on front porches, researchers at Accenture Technology Labs in Chicago are developing a Web-based software system for package shipping and receiving.

When a package reaches a certain point in shipping-say, the regional hub where trucks are loaded for local routes-it’s scanned and identified much as parcels tracked by United Parcel Service and Federal Express are now. The software then sends out an alert to the package’s recipient, based on preferences he or she has preselected online: e-mail, an instant text message or a phone call. A customer can even grant the shipper access to an online personal calendar in order to coordinate a preferred delivery time and can send the system new delivery instructions if the original time or address is inconvenient. The software automatically updates the driver’s delivery list, saving the precious time it takes to drive to an empty home and write a missed-delivery note.

While Accenture will not divulge which of its corporate clients are interested in the prototype, the researchers foresee widespread use of the software within a few years. And since the system is built using universal Web standards, says Michael Hoch, analyst at the Boston-based Aberdeen Group, “You can expect to see any number of companies develop similar services in the next three to five years.” Which could mean the end of those dreaded missed-delivery sticky notes once and for all.

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