USPS Wants to be More Digital-Friendly
January 16, 2013 9:52 AM
But obstacles like financial cuts and legislation are not easy to overcome
The United States Postal Service (USPS) could use a digital boost to current times, and it has ideas, but executing these plans is another story.
USPS is, for the most part, thought of as a
physical mail-only type of service
. About 160 billion pieces of mail go through USPS, and none of it is digital. It doesn't offer much in the way of technology -- with a few exceptions like tracking packages online -- but USPS wants more to offer customers.
Paul Vogel is the man behind USPS' tech efforts. His official title is the president of digital solutions, and right now, he doesn't have much to work with. He's got an office like "a San Jose startup," with only 15 Android/Apple developers, consultants coming and going, one computer and his BlackBerry smartphone.
But Vogel's lack of access to resources isn't the only reason for USPS' restricted technology. A major obstacle is legislation needed to get permission for new digital products. Also, USPS has a huge instruction manual for just handful of current products. Adding digital products and security certifications would turn that 1,500 page book into something unimaginable. Furthermore, USPS had losses that amounted to $16 billion last year, and there are legislative proposals to
keep making cuts
. Hence, more digital tech may not be in the cards right now.
But despite these roadblocks, Vogel and his team are in the midst of making a digital push for USPS. They're currently working on a digital platform called MyPost, which will allow customers to log in and view all packages that they'll be receiving as well as those they've already received instead of searching several different sites that the packages may be coming from.
This is a start, but there are many other pie-in-the-sky ideas USPS would like to take on, such as smartphone apps that would allow customers to scan QR codes on all mail for offers in catalogues or 3D printing at nearby facilities to cut on delivery costs.
Vogel said one of the most important steps forward would be to get more people in his office who could launch these ideas into reality.
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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