• on Feb 25th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service is a key player in a year-long trial of a unique public-private partnership effort that would let citizens securely and voluntarily sign up for online services at multiple agencies using a number of different digital identities. The user would then use whichever password and identity is most convenient – whether the identities are issued by the government or a private company – to log in across multiple government agencies. As the most trusted government agency, and with a 200-year history of security and privacy in delivering mail, the Administration tapped the Postal Service to manage the technology behind the Federal Cloud Credentialing Exchange (FCCX) pilot project. The Postal Service would be taking on a digital version of its role in the physical world, delivering sealed packets of identity data securely between government agencies and identity providers. Press reports on the pilot project suggest that if it is successful, people might one day be able to change an address online by logging into the Postal Service website with the same passcode or smart card that they use to file taxes with the IRS and buy books on Amazon. But to start, the Postal Service is expected to begin working with suppliers to try the service on test customers, ID providers, and government offices. The FCCX will not store any personal data and will be designed to prevent agency personnel and other participants from tracking citizens’ activity across agencies. This effort represents the Postal Service’s first move into supporting federal e-government services, a move it is well-positioned to make. It also could serve as a template for providing other online services that promote security, privacy, and certification. Recent reports of hacking by foreign entities into the data centers of major news organizations and corporations have again reminded consumers of how vulnerable their online data can be. While many of us prefer the convenience of online bill paying, shopping, and communicating, concerns are growing about the threat this poses to privacy and security. How can the Postal Service transfer its trusted role in the physical world to a role in facilitating commerce and e-government services in the digital world? What opportunities might the Postal Service have in providing solutions to these online security and privacy concerns?

  • on Feb 18th, 2013 in Pricing & Rates | 6 comments

    After more than 20 years of service, the venerable POSTNet barcode on envelopes for automating and sorting mail retired on January 28. The Postal Service now requires that mailings have at least Basic-Service Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) to qualify for automation discounts. Mailers will need to switch to Full-Service IMb by January 2014 to receive maximum discounts at that time. Even though the Postal Service provided a lengthy lead time and a good deal of education on the discontinuance of the POSTNet barcode, the IMb requirement undoubtedly caught some smaller mailers by surprise. At the start of the New Year, less than half of commercial mail contained an IMb, suggesting a sizable number of mailers still needed to make the switch. While large commercial mailers were early adopters of IMb, many mid-sized and smaller mailers were hesitant to make the commitment and investment. Basic-Service IMb is not as big a step as the move to Full-Service IMb but it also yields fewer benefits. Full-Service Intelligent Mail will allow mailers to receive richer data about their mailings, but requires them to invest in hardware and software changes. The Postal Service wants to give mailers an incentive to make the conversion. It has proposed a one-time credit ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 to customers that make the conversion to Full-Service IMb. The credit would be based on the number of pieces the customer sends in a year. In an October Federal Register notice, the Postal Service laid out its proposal and further details are expected in a final rule. Is an incentive necessary to get mailers to invest in Full-Service IMb? If you are a mailer, do you plan to take advantage of the incentive?

  • on Feb 11th, 2013 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 7 comments

    The Postal Service is a leader among federal agencies in sustainability efforts. In 2009, it joined with 20 international postal operators to commit to a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, a goal it has made significant progress toward achieving. A major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is vehicle emissions. With the largest civilian fleet in the country – more than 213,000 vehicles – the Postal Service has both an enormous opportunity and an enormous challenge in reducing its fuel consumption. So far, the challenges have proved considerable. In its most recent sustainability report for fiscal year 2011, the Postal Service reported that while it met its sustainability goals in six categories, it did not reach its target for reducing petroleum fuel consumption in its own vehicles or in those used by contractors. A growing number of delivery points each year and an aging vehicle fleet have made it difficult for the Postal Service to reduce its petroleum use. Although the Postal Service has worked diligently towards its goal of using alternative fuels, real gains in energy efficiency will be limited until it can overhaul the fleet. Unless the Postal Service’s financial situation improves or it finds alternative methods for capital investment, it is not likely to replace its existing fleet of vehicles. This raises questions about the limitations on the Postal Service’s ability to reduce its petroleum fuel use and how it can best leverage alternative fuel options. How should the Postal Service achieve its fuel consumption goals when its financial situation is so dire? Should it suspend some of its sustainability efforts while tackling its larger financial and business model challenges? The Sustainability Report indicates that sustainability efforts make financial sense, with savings from reduced fuel use and new revenue from recycling products. Could the savings and revenues be used creatively to fund new energy-savings projects?

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