• on Aug 3rd, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments

    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?

    To get an idea how the IoPT might work, we created this video.

     

  • on Jul 27th, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments

    People aren’t dying like they used to. Thanks to medical advances and better lifestyle choices, Americans are living a lot longer. In fact, those who are 65 or older account for 14.1 percent of the U.S. population, or about 45 million people — the highest percentage ever, according to the Administration on Aging. By 2020, seniors will account for 16.1 percent.

    As the number of older Americans increases, so do their needs. Not all of those needs are being met. But the U.S. Postal Service could change that.

    Budget constraints in recent years have forced many providers of elderly wellness services – anything promoting physical, emotional, or even financial health – to shutter physical locations and move online. But, according to the National Council on Aging, 41 percent of older Americans do not use the Internet at all, meaning more than 18 million seniors might be cut off from programs they need most.

    With its vast network of post offices and letter carriers, isn’t the Postal Service well-positioned to partner with a wide range of wellness service providers who want to reach seniors on the other side of the digital divide?

    We hosted a forum with wellness professionals and postal employee representatives who essentially explored that question and concluded that, yes, there are numerous opportunities for mutually beneficial collaborations. We provide details of the discussion in our new paper, The Postal Service's Role in Delivering Wellness Services and Supplies.

    Among the possibilities:

    • Delivering groceries to homebound people, including those without Internet access
    • Letter carriers alerting a social services organization when a senior along their route might need help
    • Wellness organizations offering services, such as helping people manage their social security accounts, through unused postal clerk windows
    • Mobile health units stationed in Post Office parking lots

    Each opportunity would allow wellness providers to connect with more elderly individuals, and also help the Postal Service realize new revenue through fee-sharing or rental income while fostering goodwill with individuals and communities throughout the nation.

    Tell us your thoughts: What kind of wellness services would you like to see involving the Postal Service? Which of those services do you think are the most important?

  • on May 29th, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 1 comment
    When online, how do you know who you’re really communicating with? Does that affect your shopping or banking habits? Do you know people who don’t use the Internet much because they are afraid of identity theft? The latest statistics from a Pew Research Center study demonstrate the pull of the Internet: •80 percent of Americans are users, whether through personal computer, tablet, or smartphone; •many of those users do not conduct any kind of commerce; •30 percent have not made a purchase online; •and 40 percent do not bank online. Would a more secure approach to online identity raise those figures? The Office of Inspector General’s new paper Digital Identity: Opportunities for the Postal Service examines the world of digital identity as well as many existing digital authentication solutions, including pilot projects, and potential roles for the Postal Service in the digital identity ecosystem. The paper posits that there is a need for a trusted and neutral body to identify, authenticate, and certify users in a straightforward manner that reduces sign-up friction and maintains privacy with very clear, concise, and enforceable policy guidelines. The Postal Service, given its national presence, physical infrastructure, and history of protecting privacy, could operate in a number of roles: •As a Trusted Third Party Online – The Postal Service could verify individual or business addresses (with permission from each user) for other organizations to facilitate eCommerce or other online transactions. •As an Identity Provider – The Postal Service could offer its own digital identity service, an opt-in service verifying attributes of consumers, businesses and organizations. •Providing in-Person Verification Services – The Postal Service could expand the work it already does for passports and offer in-person verification of mailing addresses through its network of post offices and postal carriers. What do you think? Is there a role for the Postal Service in digital identity? Share your thoughts below!

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