Imagine ordering groceries and having them delivered to a mailbox that signs for them, monitors and controls temperature to prevent spoilage, and alerts you that your food has been safely delivered.
Meet the connected mailbox.
Sounds like something George Jetson and his family might have, doesn’t it? Actually, it could be something you have in the not-too-distant future, given the growing interest in the so-called “Internet of Things” – essentially interconnecting digital networks of physical objects embedded with sensors that do everything from collecting data to switching things on and off.
Think of existing systems that wire up your home so that you can remotely adjust lighting, temperature, even door locks and more via computer or mobile device. As we note in our new white paper, The Internet of Postal Things, the U.S. Postal Service has a vast and rich infrastructure that could be similarly wired to create what we call an Internet of Postal Things (IoPT), which could benefit both the Postal Service and its customers. We identify more than a dozen IoPT applications that could be developed in four key categories:
- Transportation and logistics – Sensors on postal vehicles to increase efficiency through predictive maintenance, fuel management, and real-time dynamic routing.
- Smart postal buildings – Sensors to not only increase security and reduce energy consumption, but also improve customer convenience by, for example, equipping clerks with wearables (clothing/accessories incorporating computer technology) to help them find what customers need.
- Neighborhood services – Sensors on postal vehicles, carrier devices, and mailboxes that could perform tasks useful to local authorities, such as monitoring air quality or identifying potholes.
- Enhanced mail and parcel services – More applications like the connected mailbox, providing greater customer convenience and increased postal efficiency.
You can check out the paper for more details, including suggestions on how the Postal Service could start building an IoPT. Meanwhile, what do you think? What IoPT applications would you most like to see?