USPS unveils 'GPS' for commercial mail

The U.S. Postal Service plans to use a combination of standardized intelligent bar codes, continuous tracking and real-time feedback in an effort to modernize and speed the delivery of business mail and stay competitive with private delivery services.

USPS said the planned system is called Intelligent Mail and is expected to be fully operational for all commercial mailers by the end of the decade.

“Intelligent Mail is like having a [Global Positioning] System for mail,” said John Potter, postmaster general and chief executive officer of USPS, during a board of governors meeting today. “Our vision is becoming a reality, and we’re looking forward to having everyone on board by 2009.”

According to USPS, the centerpiece of the technical innovation is a standardized intelligent bar code that USPS will place on letters, large envelopes and mail containers. As they travel through the postal network and are scanned, business customers will be able to monitor their mail at every step, from its arrival at the postal facility to its processing, transportation and final delivery.

The Intelligent Mail process will be fully automated, according to the announcement. The Postal Service will ask customers to electronically notify USPS of planned shipments to enable it to better match appropriate resources for delivery. Checking addresses, presorting accuracy and postage will become an automatic process.

The system will identify problems such as incorrect addresses and improper presorting, and it will then feed that information back to the mailers to correct.

“Constant feedback is what really differentiates Intelligent Mail from our current process,” Potter said.

The new system’s real-time data-monitoring service will allow USPS to pinpoint problems immediately rather than receive evaluations from outside sources after the fact, the announcement states.

USPS said three businesses are testing the full suite of information technology products that make up Intelligent Mail, and the results have been promising.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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