United Parcel Service is upping the ante on next-day mail deliveries, with an Internet service that can deliver documents in as little as six seconds.
UPS said it expects banks will be interested in using its Document Exchange service to deliver important papers, such as loan documents, regulatory reports, and financial statements.
The service will offer various levels of security. At the highest level, Verisign Inc. will provide digital certificates, which authenticate the senders and recipients in electronic transactions.
UPS is counting on studies that predict 50% of all document delivery will occur electronically by 2003. UPS delivers more than three billion packages and documents a year. It has not released an estimate of how much of that volume will be replaced by electronic delivery.
Users may be reluctant, however, to send important documents - such as legal contracts or financial information - over the Internet, said David Baltaxe, commerce analyst with Current Analysis Inc. of Sterling, Va. Many do not use fax machines to transmit such data.
"UPS will have to get users comfortable with the security and reliability," Mr. Baltaxe said.
Erica Rugullies, an industry analyst with Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass., said that although the service may not become popular right away, UPS must position itself in the market.
Document Exchange provides real-time tracking, archiving, delivery confirmation, password protection options, and a minimum of 128-bit encryption.
James Harvey, an Atlanta attorney who does legal work for UPS, said Document Exchange removes two of e-mail's major weakness: security and delivery confirmation.
Though he would not use Document Exchange to send final contracts, he said, he finds the service useful for transmitting drafts.
With standard e-mail, people using different e-mail systems sometimes have trouble reading attachments. With the basic Document Exchange service, the document resides on UPS' server, and the recipient can download it using the Web address provided.
Rates per transaction within North America range from $1 to $7, and exchanges between North America and any other location range from $1.50 to $12.
The service is available in English, and billing is in U.S. dollars. Multiple languages and currencies are planned.