Mobility

Mail carriers get new mobile device

USPS mobile device

Postal carriers are getting a new mobile hand-held electronic device to track packages and communicate with their local offices. While the main function is to scan packages at delivery, USPS officials are reluctant to call it just a scanner.

The Mobile Delivery Device collects and transmits transactional data for packages at the post office and as packages are out for delivery. It can operate over the networks of multiple wireless carriers, as well as internal USPS networks. The next generation device, built by Honeywell, is the leading edge of a larger USPS plan to support the kind of multiple-event end-to-end tracking used by commercial shippers.

The device stores details about the workday of the carriers, said USPS CIO James Cochrane at a meeting with reporters at the annual National Postal Forum. Carriers will use the device to track their movements and their working time, and can even input vehicle data on the device. "It really becomes more of a work aid than just a scanner," he said.

The USPS will deploy about 75,000 of the new devices beginning in August.

The change is part of an IT infrastructure upgrade at the post office fueled by the explosion of e-commerce. The USPS is exploring replacing and upgrading the scanners at its larger processing centers, while bringing more advanced tracking technology to even the smallest post office location.

"We really are making a billion-dollar bet on the future of the shipping business," Cochran said.

As the USPS expands its ability to meet the technological demands of commercial shippers, it ramps up the amount of data it collects. The agency is up to 30 petabytes in storage, Cochrane said, and the advanced tracking offers more data collection points as a package moves through the sorting system.

While the largest customers might glean some insights from using the data collected by USPS, privacy statutes get in the way of using their data as a marketing tool.

"From the data we have, we know what mail goes into your houses," Cochrane said. Commercial mailings like catalogs have intelligent mail barcodes that have information about the sender and the recipient. "We don't share any of that. We don't use it ourselves. Our statutes don't allow for it."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is a staff writer covering Congress, the FCC and other key agencies. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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Reader comments

Wed, Sep 10, 2014

Since the new scanners will be tracking our every move there's no reason for the PO to employ supervisors for route inspections.

Fri, Jun 20, 2014

Congress is always complaining about USPS. Make the politicians all the way up pay full price on their out going mail. That might change their att Attitude towards the Post Office.

Sat, Apr 5, 2014

I wish they could track my stupidvisor's lunch breaks and time spent online shopping.

Sat, Apr 5, 2014 btck

There is a request for BIDS for new vehicles. has to have space for a certain number of parcels. TO be delivered to DEALERS and then maintained by dealers.You may have problems getting your vehiclee serviced if USPS vehicles take priority with dealers v

Tue, Mar 25, 2014 Bill Toledo

All this while the USPS struggles financially. Hard to understand the hardship when they spend like this just to track employees.

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