Public Safety

The Internet of Postal Things

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The Internet of Things (IoT) occupies a promising – and potentially perilous – position on the technology hype curve. With regard to the promise, our IoT research and initiatives confirm deeply held beliefs about the significant benefits that neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries can realize as a result of becoming more instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent. With regard to peril, we see that the full potential of the technology will only be realized if we identify and implement the right use cases and choose the right avenues for cost-effective implementation. On the implementation side, we believe that postal administrations offer a unique value proposition. For a decade, posts have been facing mortal challenges, including the erosion of physical letter volumes and the redefinition of their role in society, yet they possess a network of ubiquitous physical assets that no other industry or organization can reproduce. That network can be used to their advantage, especially in an IoT world.

Equipping postal infrastructures with IoT technologies to create the Internet of Postal Things (IoPT) would create an ecosystem of sensor and communication assets – both stationary and mobile – that would exist in and travel through neighborhoods as many as six days per week. This ecosystem not only allows postal operators to transform existing business models in delivery and retail; it also provides a platform for collecting and communicating data that can benefit city, state, and national governments and increase citizen safety and value. Mobile air quality data collection, video analytics helping cities manage traffic flows, analyzing the changing flows of vehicles and goods to better plan needed infrastructure, and aiding emergency organizations on more granular disaster planning in the event of natural disasters are just a few areas where IoPT can contribute to citizens, cities, and governments. Currently, the potential benefits and impacts are only limited by the extent of one’s imagination.

There will be significant challenges. Identifying the most promising business models will require experimentation which might involve changing the DNA of some posts. Serving as information brokers for other agencies and for cities is neither a traditional nor a comfortable business model for traditional posts. Many posts likely do not possess the required technical capabilities in-house and must seek to partner with technology firms and others to address the challenges of scale, data capture, analytics, and privacy. Success will require leadership, a clear vision, and an entrepreneurial spirit to assume the risk of experimenting with these technologies and business models. Customer adoption remains the key challenge in propagating IoT applications into additional areas of citizen lives; might an IoT-connected mailbox or other postal-related citizen service be the ‘gateway drug’ that paves the way for the proliferation of additional IoT products and services across multiple sectors and industries?

Senior Manager, Postal Industry Team; AoT Member

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