Panel calls for 'intelligent mail'

Panel calls for 'intelligent mail'

Mailing industry executives and a postal official have called on the Postal Service to develop a system to track every piece of mail from pickup to delivery.

The 'intelligent mail' proposal was one of several recommendations by the Mailing Industry Task Force, made up of 12 industry executives and deputy postmaster general John Nolan. The task force released its recommendations last week at the National Postal Forum in Denver.

'Knowing where every piece of mail is, is very valuable,' said Nolan, who cochaired the task force. 'We're finding that the scanning equipment available today is very powerful and relatively inexpensive.'

The task force suggested that the Postal Service work with the private sector to create a Web tool to measure performance using Planet source code, downloadable from the Web, and two-dimensional bar codes. By combining the two technologies, the Postal Service could provide complete tracking on the Web for senders and receivers.

USPS also could forecast where it would need to place resources and how to balance shipping loads. Such a system would be a boon for shippers, said Michael J. Critelli, chairman of Pitney Bowes Inc. of Stamford, Conn., and cochairman of the task force.

'Knowing when the check is really in the mail' is important, Critelli said. 'Aggregation of data can measure performance and help shippers plan mailing. I think it's a very powerful tool.'

The intelligent mail system would also improve security in light of evidence that deadly anthrax bacteria are being shipped through the mail, Critelli said. Digital imprinting of each mail piece would let the Postal Service attach a security marker to help identify the origins of such threats.

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