on Jan 9th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments

Traditional addressing systems rely on subjective identifiers like street names and business or residence numbers. These addressing systems have generally offered the U.S. and many foreign postal services an effective means to identify pickup and delivery locations. However, recent technological innovations related to digital mapping have led some to consider the adoption of an addressing system based on geocodes.

Unlike traditional postal codes, such as a ZIP code, a geocode is not a subjective descriptor, but a series of letters and/or numbers based on the physical location, or latitude and longitude coordinates, of a business, residence, or even point of interest. For example, under a geocode system, location of the USPS OIG headquarters may be identified by a single number such as 35602.1092.4393 which contains information about the latitude (38° 53' 45.996") and longitude (-77° 4' 14.6784“) of the building.

Developing a geocode addressing system could have many benefits. Notably, it could provide every location in the world an internationally unique and permanent “address”. Such a system has important economic implications. Beyond supplying a physical address to residents and businesses located in countries without addressing systems, a common global standard could greatly facilitate international communications and transactions.

This is particularly true as e-Commerce continues to grow across borders and the need for an addressing system that transcends national mailing standards and cultural and language barriers becomes more apparent. A geocode system may also complement the traditional street address system by providing more precise location information in cases where the location to which a package is to be delivered does not have a unique address, such as a specific room or cubicle.

What do you think? Would geocoding improve the current address system?

This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Blog Team.


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- Address Correction Issues:
Single digit errors in Geocodes will likely make a packet undeliverable, as it could be sent hundreds of miles away from destination. Human address correction on last mile delivery is no longer possible.

- Accuracy issues if address is only based on geocodes:
Giving the geocode for a destination room does not mean the carrier can find the actual drop point. Consider complex and intertwining building structures.

-However, geocodes could make sense for countries lacking a workble address system.

Geocodes are great for many exacting purposes when they are exact. As inputs into digital mapping and arriving at an exact point which is previously mapped, such as the location of an emergency when the responding organization has total access to data, they are fine. However, for the rest of us, one small error on nearly any number would mean delivery/arrival failure. For letter carriers, local knowledge is probably the salvation of a significant part of poorly or incorrectly addressed mail. Geocodes dehumanize delivery and make local knowledge obsolete, when there is still a need for that local knowledge.

Unless there is a tangible benefit to changing the current system, it seems there would be little reward and extra risk associated with a change to geocodes.

As a daily mail sorter, I'm expecting at least 10% of my thousand or so pieces to have wrong or incomplete addressess. The little old ladies are not the worst. Its the financial industry, banks in particular. Mail is an art, not a science and always will be when either the shipper or recieptent are humans.

My address has actually morphed into the location of my IT network entry point. And, then (I) identify the address that is relevant to
the USPS. It's actually none of you business what my address is, unless (I) voluntarily provide it to you.
I'm not trying to be difficult in the discussion, it's simply that the subject is based on a "traditional addressing system".
I'm of the opinion that the planet just does not have the energy to
continue to promote a "traditional" mail service.
The electronic age has changed everything. I remember my poor old father complaining about the considerable junk mail he got. When he died, all of the junk mail stopped! Now tell me...
Who's watching who?

Name and one line of numbers?
Not consumer friendly.
If numbers rather than street, city and state, then why not the nine digit zip (it beats a 13 digit code)?

Geocodes could present a new revenue stream, however. since most of the internet is powered by geo. Geo is really a companion to the addressing system, not a replacement