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US Wants To Build 'Internet of Postal Things'

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the because-we-need-more-internets dept.

Network 113

dcblogs writes: The U.S. Postal Service plans to spend up to $100,000 to investigate how it can utilize low cost sensors and related wireless technologies to improve the efficiency of its operations. The postal service already scans letters and parcels up to 11 times during processing, representing 1.7 trillion scans a year. It uses supercomputers to process that data. In theory, the postal service believes that everything it uses — mailboxes, vehicles, machines, or a letter carrier — could be equipped with a sensor to create what it terms the Internet of Postal Things. The Internet has not been kind to the postal service. Electronic delivery has upended the postal services business model. In 2003, it processed 49 billion pieces of single-piece first-class mail, but by 2013, that figured dropped to 22.6 billion pieces. In other high-tech postal service news, Digital Post Australia has shut down. It was an attempt to digitize snail mail, but they didn't manage to convince enough senders that it was worth trying.

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Want efficiency? Cut NSA out of the picture (-1, Offtopic)

Greg666NYC (3665779) | about 2 months ago | (#47266407)

Each distribution center sending scans to Utah cost a lot of money. Start respecting American Constitution and forget about spying on US citizens.
Then, profit will be achieved.

p.s
If you really love spying on own citizens, move to North Korea please.

Re:Want efficiency? Cut NSA out of the picture (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266505)

They would collectively go "DOESN'T ANYBODY SPEAK A DECENT LANGUAGE AROUND HERE?!?"

Oh, got caught in the fascist caps filter.

Dice Holdings Must Die! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266413)

I swear Dice are owned by the corporate droids at Apple and the Rockstar consortium who are attempting to kill off the Gnu/Linux Rebels alongside the Win32 *I refuse to use Metro' rebels and Android Raiders! When Cmdr Taco & Linus Torvalds along with RMS dies I say this ' This house of Github will become a shrine for Geeks, WinNuts and Droids as they gather around in sorrow of their fallen leaders and proclaim Have you Heard RMS & Linus is dead, The people's Hackers are Dead!'...

Reasons to use Snail Mail (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 2 months ago | (#47266447)

1) Want to be increase the chance it gets read, as opposed to thrown away.

2) Want to send something physical, such as a key. This also includes any letter you think your great grandchildren might want to read some day.

3) Want to send something that you don't want copied/replied/forwarded/subpoenaed in a law suit (A lot more important than you might think).

4) You don't know the recipient's email address.

5) The law says you must (important for financial papers, etc.)

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47266729)

This also includes any letter you think your great grandchildren might want to read some day.

Really? I have a copy of every non-spam email I have sent or received in the last 31 years, all fully indexed and searchable. I have zero copies of any paper letters. For a while, I had a box of letters from my old girlfriends, but my wife tossed those a decade ago.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (3, Insightful)

plover (150551) | about 2 months ago | (#47266875)

I wouldn't want to go through gigabytes of anyone else's old giant email archive, not my dad's, grandpa's, or son's. I barely get through my own daily notes. I keep old emails so I can search them, but I don't think of myself as beig so important someday that anyone else will ever care.

But I do still have a few printouts of emails my wife and I exchanged, back when we were dating in 1980. Again, not that anyone else will care.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47269475)

A lot of people care, and for different reasons.
Historians care, because traditionally average goings on in a society get lost.
Family cares becasue they want to remember.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (2)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 2 months ago | (#47267211)

How do you index them? Which software?

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 2 months ago | (#47268799)

You are an anomaly. Statistically speaking, how many people in the world have a purely digital life?

And by answering that, you lead me to this question which is: how relevant do you think this comment is to the conversation? Because i think it is rare enough to be considered negligible. Assuming rounding errors, there is literally no person on the planet who does this.

And if you save something that your grandkids might read some day, even if they are purely digital, they may still save a tiny box of memorabilia from when humans sent important messages on pieces of trees.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47269487)

No, I have every important email I ahve every gotten. And I've been getting them since before people used the @ symbol.
Not conveniently searchable. the last 8 years are the res you would need to open up with different tools.

Today, when you look at social media, most peoples writings are digital.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 months ago | (#47270657)

This also includes any letter you think your great grandchildren might want to read some day.

Really? I have a copy of every non-spam email I have sent or received in the last 31 years, all fully indexed and searchable. I have zero copies of any paper letters. For a while, I had a box of letters from my old girlfriends, but my wife tossed those a decade ago.

Ironically I have copies of both, though the ability to search the ones that started out as paper is compromised by OCR.

Mail gets opened and placed on the scanner, and scanned and shredded as soon as possible. Dealing with the mail happens in software.

I'd gladly move to electronic billing, except they don't actually send you the bills - they just send you reminders to go log into yet another website with a password to go download your bill (maybe). It is actually less hassle to deal with the paper. If they emailed me a PDF and there was some kind of assurance that email gets delivered then I'd probably go electronic.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#47266941)

1) Want to be increase the chance it gets read, as opposed to thrown away.

Oddly, I am more likely to just toss snail-mail unopened than not. I generally go through it on the way from the mailbox to the house, and stop and toss stuff when I reach the garbage can.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

ThomasBHardy (827616) | about 2 months ago | (#47268663)

We have a trash can in the garage, everything that's not actual relevant mail (bills, etc.) goes straight into the can without it ever entering the house. What a waste of paper, money, ink, human labor, etc.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

plopez (54068) | about 2 months ago | (#47271319)

You are a much more intelligent spam filter than any computer program.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 months ago | (#47267165)

All of which you can do with FedEx, UPS, or the USPS's express flat service. It costs more, but how many times a year do you use that service?

Other than for bills, first class mail is dead. For bills, it's dying.

Re: Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

Nofsck Ingcloo (145724) | about 2 months ago | (#47267505)

It's not dying for bills in my house. The billers have really screwed up electronic billing around here. They don't email you the actual bill, just a notice that your bill is available on their web site. For 'n' billers I am expected to maintain 'n' user-IDs, and passwords and go fetch 'n' bills. Pox on that. USPS has business with me until the e-bills are pushed to me.

Re: Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 months ago | (#47269661)

Bank of America's online bill-paying system is quite good. They handle the interfacing with other sites, and most larger companies are interconnected with them. You can view incoming bills on the BofA site and pay them there.

This doesn't let other companies debit your account. You have to initiate transfers while logged into BofA. So this is much safer than letting companies initiate transfers to them from their end.

We pretty much have everything in place to replace first class mail. 98% of the paper volume in my mailbox is in the recycling bin immediately after receipt.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

dj245 (732906) | about 2 months ago | (#47271207)

All of which you can do with FedEx, UPS, or the USPS's express flat service. It costs more, but how many times a year do you use that service?

Other than for bills, first class mail is dead. For bills, it's dying.

It is very valuable to grab someone's attention. Stuck in phone support hell? Company not treating you right? 49 cents and you get a piece of paper that someone, almost certainly outside of the small group of people who is treating you badly, will read. If you complain about something specific and actionable, it will be escalated and probably taken care of. 1 letter to CIGNA HQ and I got them to actually do something on my behalf. It took less time to write and drop in our office mail than a phone call to CIGNA usually takes. AND I didn't have to deal with their dreadful phone menu system.

Don't discount 1st class mail just because you aren't using it to your advantage.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 months ago | (#47267967)

"1) Want to be increase the chance it gets read, as opposed to thrown away."

I get all my monthly invoices per email, I throw out everything I get via snailmail, but I don't live in the US, so YMMV.

"2) Want to send something physical, such as a key."

Really? Envelopes containing such hard things get shredded regularly in the scanning equipment and lost.
Also, it's not secure, nobody sane does that.

" This also includes any letter you think your great grandchildren might want to read some day."

Only you think that, your grandchildren (great or not) don't and won't, unless it's your will and even that will get read to them by somebody else.

"3) Want to send something that you don't want copied/replied/forwarded/subpoenaed in a law suit (A lot more important than you might think)."

Cut-out newspaper words with ransom demands perhaps, for the rest you use a courier service.

"4) You don't know the recipient's email address."

And the living address you get from where? The landline phonebook? You really DO have great grandchildren.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 months ago | (#47269075)

Only you think that, your grandchildren (great or not) don't and won't, unless it's your will and even that will get read to them by somebody else.

You raise your kids the way you want, and GP will raise their kids the way they want.

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47269561)

" your grandchildren (great or not) don't and won't,"
You're projecting, stop it. You may not giver a crap about the lives of you GP or GGP, but many people do care about their GP and GGP. Why do you think genealogy has such a huge amateur following?

Also, there are historian who wold like to archive specifically because you are a boring average person.

"for the rest you use a courier service."
Or spend less money with a higher degree of accuracy and use USPS.

"And the living address you get from where?"
Don't be a myopic ass.
http://www.whitepages.com/ [whitepages.com]

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47268749)

Up to $100K to help shape the future of a federal institution that serves 300 million people...

Re:Reasons to use Snail Mail (1)

plopez (54068) | about 2 months ago | (#47271305)

It's still pretty cheap too. Check the US Postal book rate vs UPS/FEDEX charges. Still pretty cheap. And it is for anywhere in the US.

Australia' road (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266449)

The final news about Australia is a nice epilog to the thin future of US Postal Service.

Re:Australia' road (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 months ago | (#47269049)

US postal service will be around even if it moves only 100 packages a year. It is one of the few things the federal government does that is actually a constitution purpose of the federal government. Good luck getting them to give that up.

However, the USPS could run fiber and put some last mile crap in and lease it to ISPs if email is the new post.

Re:Australia' road (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 2 months ago | (#47269685)

Well they have given up most of everything else in the pursuit of doing everything they are technically forbidden to do so why bother keeping this one going.

Re:Australia' road (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 months ago | (#47272369)

People and power. It seems the feds love power over people and the post office employs a lot of them giving the feds defacto power.

But that's really a guess. More likely it would be to expand federal powers into another area by the expansion of legitimate powers. Although, they don't seem to care if they have legitimacy or not

What is the internet of things? (4, Insightful)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 2 months ago | (#47266455)

I've never understood this term. It makes no sense as an informative expression, because everyone attempting to use the internet needs a thing to do so. There can be no internet without things. In fact, the internet exists in the connections between things. The "internet of things" is like "the story of words" or "the forest of trees". It means nothing.

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266595)

It's the new marketing buzzword to mean non-networked devices to be connected to the internet. The internet has traditionally been a network of desktops, laptops and phones, the "internet of things" means connecting stuff like dish washers, refrigerators, fish tanks, postal trucks, shoes, cars, potted plants and so on.

Re:What is the internet of things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266625)

I've never understood this term. It makes no sense as an informative expression, because everyone attempting to use the internet needs a thing to do so. There can be no internet without things. In fact, the internet exists in the connections between things. The "internet of things" is like "the story of words" or "the forest of trees". It means nothing.

The internet consists in the connections between networks. These are things, but not the things you were looking for. They can go about their business; move along.

Re:What is the internet of things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266683)

I still fail to understand what the cloud or a smartphone is. Most people selling clouds don't know any better themselves so i guess it's OK.

Re:What is the internet of things? (2)

vux984 (928602) | about 2 months ago | (#47266755)

I've never understood this term. It makes no sense as an informative expression

\shrug -- the 'internet' is traditionally a network of computers and the network gear to connect them. The 'internet of things' is connecting everything that isn't really recognized as a 'computer' to the internet.

Sure strictly speaking, any 'thing' that is capable of being connected to the internet rises to become a 'computer' in some sense, but people still retain a cognitive sense that some things are computers, and other things which might technically be computers are still not normally counted as computers.

Those are the 'things' on the 'internet of things'.

Not the best term for it perhaps... but not the worst.

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 2 months ago | (#47266837)

Man, we so missed out on the "Internet of Buggy Whips".

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

plover (150551) | about 2 months ago | (#47266997)

The 'things' you seem to be thinking about are computing devices that are all deliberately meant for data access. The 'Internet-of-things' things are the non-traditional devices, such as washers, dryers, light bulbs, garage doors, thermostats, and other devices with some other primary purpose that is not data access.

The concept is that today, 99% of the things on the Internet are computers first, and most people have only one or two. But when the day comes that everyone puts a hundred appliances on the net, we may need to be looking at the whole network differently. When other 'things' outnumber the people and PCs, then we can truly call it the Internet-of-Things.

But yeah, it's mostly generic marketing-speak, like "the cloud" has become.

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47269577)

The Cloud has specfic meaning, just like the internet of things.

You people are so short sighted.
And there are more things then people on the internet already.
See: Phones.

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47271725)

The Cloud has specfic meaning, just like the internet of things.

It is supposed to, but all kinds of things which aren't really cloud services are being sold as cloud services.

And there are more things then people on the internet already. See: Phones.

Phones are traditional user devices, which represent people. It's more about stuff like home appliances, gas meters and traffic lights. And eventually, as internet connection becomes ubiquitous, everything else which now has at least a microcontroller in it, and lots of things which don't.

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 months ago | (#47267067)

I've never understood this term.

. . . just wait until someone comes up with an "Internet of Things Cloud" . . . or should it be a "Cloud of Internet Things" . . . ?

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47269579)

Thanks for letting us know you have no idea what either means and instead you relieving yourself of the burden of ignorance, you just make fun of people.

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

baKanale (830108) | about 2 months ago | (#47267249)

Since the idea is to connect and/or monitor everything (or at least many or most things) to a network, maybe it should be called the "Internet of Everything" instead?

Re:What is the internet of things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47267631)

The "internet of things" is like "the story of words" or "the forest of trees". It means of nothing.

FTFY

Re:What is the internet of things? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | about 2 months ago | (#47268467)

The internet of things referrs to the concept of connecting all kinds of devices and sensors to the internet that have essentially zero processing power.. all they do is serve as inputs to other cloud-based systems. Traditionally, things that were connected to the internet were "smart" - they were computers, laptops, or more recently tablets and smartphones. The internet of things is dumb. It is thermostats, wireless cameras, bluetooth proximity devices, sensors in roads and driveways, in cars, in light bulbs. None of these things has any real CPU or memory horsepower nor do they do much of anything beyond sending data to the cloud, and/or receive a single "ON/OFF" command.

Re:What is the internet of things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47269079)

There can be no internet without things.

This is not what "thing" means. Thing is specifically a generic word in this context. Normally, on the internet, there is people. People using computers. I use a program on my desktop called a web browser, for example, so that I, me, a person, can view what's on a web server. Internet of Things, means THINGS are connecting to the internet. Directly. Not a person, touching a bunch of buttons and moving a mouse connected to a computer (which is not a thing, it's a computer). The Thing, is connecting to the internet to do it's business. Usually uploading sensor data. "Thing", as I mentioned earlier, is a generic word on purpose, it is conveying the idea, that any old thing, that normally just sits there being a lump of thing, will now actively connect to and use the internet to accomplish tasks.
If that doesn't help you understand why, then you are just trolling.

Increase efficiency (0, Flamebait)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 2 months ago | (#47266471)

Increase efficiency by shutting down your operation and letting private companies take over.

Re:Increase efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47268843)

Plenty countries tried this, and it usually doesn't work out too spiffily. Private companies that cut costs by only delivering once a week taking all the juicy bulk contracts, leaving the small fry with vastly inferior service at inflated prices. Besides, there's good reason why postal service was a government service almost everywhere--tellingly, even in the USA. See if you can think up a few reasons why this would be the case.

Besides, we've seen governments nationalise things and have those endeavours fail, too. The TSA is a good recent example. Which leads us to the conclusion that neither privatisation nor nationalisation is a silver bullet. "Efficiency" is not a monopoly of commercial companies.

Then you might see what you can read in the better management literature: It's not about the form, it's about the substance. Pick an organisation form that fits the nature of the service, and then make sure the management works really really well. Not "we pay our managers lots"*, but "the endeavour does its thing really well organised thus and with these people in charge".

* That this often happens is a sign of immaturity in the field.

I like mail (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266473)

For some reason, too many people instantly lose the abillity to care about what they're sending out (like the dreaded top-post), or even spell. In contrast, most of us have learned in school how to write a passable letter and there's something about having the thing in your hands, looking it over before stuffing it into an envelope, that makes people think again and perhaps even correct errors and such.

Because of that it'd be a shame to no longer be able to send letters. Then again, plenty of postal volume was in fact junk mail and much of that moved to email too. So they were shipping a lot of noise already, and taking that out would've been a blow anyway. So a smaller postal service is probably inevitable every which way. But losing it entirely would be... unwise.

So it's not surprising they want to improve and why not use modern technology for that? "Everybody" is doing it, and anyway, they're already taking and keeping pictures of everything sent, "for your safety from terrorism" and such malarky. I'm not at all happy with that.

In the end it's probably yet another "because we can" thing that may help a bit but the drawbacks will be systematically ignored, and that's bad.

simple (1, Interesting)

Xicor (2738029) | about 2 months ago | (#47266501)

the fix for the postal service is simple... dont send trucks to the middle of nowhere every day. in the cities, they are actually making a profit... but because they send a truck out every day to the middle of nowhere for one letter, they lose tons of money.

Re:simple (4, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 months ago | (#47266555)

Daily postal service to all citizens is the mark of an advanced society. I dont care how much money it loses, its necessary and dont fuck with it.

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266657)

But the point was always that people could communicate with each other, not that people could physically send objects/junk mail/letters.

Re:simple (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#47266839)

The Direct Marketing Association accounts for, well, pretty much all mail. They own the USPS. If it weren't for spam, there'd be no USPS.

http://www.postalreporternews.... [postalreporternews.net]

Re:simple (2)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 months ago | (#47266763)

Where do you live that your neighborhood gets mail delivered every day of the year?

I think Xicor's suggestion was just to increase the number of days where rural areas wouldn't get mail delivered, that's all. Another way to equalize the cost of mail delivery across all addresses is to reserve door to door mail for urban areas. Why should poor inner city residents subsidize mail delivery for middle class suburbanites? Shouldn't welfare flow in the opposite direction?

Re:simple (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 2 months ago | (#47269699)

In a true "equal before the law" (equal in the eyes of the government) welfare wouldn't flow in any direction at the behest of the government because redistributing wealth is not one of the enumerated powers of the US government.

Re:simple (1)

brianwski (2401184) | about 2 months ago | (#47266791)

I agree quick communication is the mark of an advanced society, but refusing to upgrade when better options are available is the mark of a doomed society.

When daily physical mail was first invented, it was great. But now that we have cell phones, email, faxes, SMS messages, Slashdot discussions, surely you can see daily physical mail is now SLOWER and less advanced for most messages.

When the first person put a horse shoe on a horse it was an advancement. But when we have cars, subways, trains, etc you have to finally admit horse shoes WERE a good idea, but now you should be using rubber tires on cars.

Re:simple (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 2 months ago | (#47267147)

When basic internet access becomes a government supplied service, then we can talk about forgetting about ubiquitous postal service.

It isn't, and no one is proposing to make it such when they talk about shutting down the USPS.

Re:simple (1)

hattable (981637) | about 2 months ago | (#47268441)

"Most messages" yes, but it is perfectly acceptable for the people using the USPS to send mail. The effective spread is not as great for the mail system as compared to horse shoes and rubber tires. That and government-provided access. A homeless man with nothing but a forever stamp and an envelope to his name can still send a letter.

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47268545)

I still put horse shoes on my horse (actually, I get the cobbler at the stables to do that). Not putting horse shoes on your horse can cause them serious injury (like, shoot them in the head injury) if you spend any time riding on roads or gravel. Split hooves are not good.

Rubber tires don't really help my horse any, and a motorcycle, let alone a car, can't handle the back country on my sheep farm anything like a horse.

Likewise, all the digital communications in the world is totally useless if you're trying to send a key or a packet of seeds or 500 tabs of LSD, or a million other things small objects you might want to mail.

Re:simple (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47269589)

You really and truly have no clue what having a post means, do you?

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47268481)

Maybe it's time to move past "advanced society" and move on to "expert society?" :-D

p.s. I have no intention of depriving you of your daily junk mail fix, but I do not enjoy junk mail. If USPS offered electronic delivery, I'd be willing to bet that about 90% of 18-29 year olds would opt-out of physical delivery, and at least half of 30-65 year olds would opt-out of physical delivery.

Re:simple (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47270455)

Daily postal service to all citizens is the mark of an advanced society. I dont care how much money it loses, its necessary and dont fuck with it.

No, it is really not necessary. Three deliveries a week would permit business to go on. If you absolutely needed something there quicker, you could pay for parcel service. Or you could move into the modern age and embrace digital communications, because most of what has to be sent urgently through the mail is just information anyway, and it would have made more sense to use the internet.

Now, broadband internet access to all citizens, that would be the mark of an advanced society. We don't have that, though.

Re:simple (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 months ago | (#47270831)

Daily postal service to all citizens is the mark of an advanced society. I dont care how much money it loses, its necessary and dont fuck with it.

Free bread after the gladiators slug it out was once the mark of an advanced society... :)

Re:simple (2)

bmo (77928) | about 2 months ago | (#47266629)

Yeah, a lot of savings can be done by not doing anything at all. /sarcasm

A lot of the value of the postal service is that you can send stuff from the sticks to the cities and back again. You propose cutting out half of that. Go look up "network effect."

You must be an accountant.

--
BMO

Re:simple (2)

g1powermac (812562) | about 2 months ago | (#47267025)

Actually, the rural runs aren't that particularly expensive to the USPS. I was once a rural carrier, and most rural routes actually require the driver to use his/her own vehicle (with a paid stipend on vehicle use). This is actually a cheaper arrangement for the USPS than sending LLVs around. Plus, with the rural routes, you don't get that much of a drop in box count. They just add more miles to your route. The PO I worked for had a rural route that had over 100 miles on it.

Re:simple (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47271763)

Actually, the rural runs aren't that particularly expensive to the USPS. I was once a rural carrier, and most rural routes actually require the driver to use his/her own vehicle

I can't speak for anywhere else, but they've discontinued all of that in Lake county. There used to be one of those white RHD Imprezas here, and a dilapidated old jeep, but now it's all official service vehicles. The jeep kept breaking down, I stopped and found out who the carrier wanted me to call because it was in a cell phone void, then called it in from my house.

Re:simple (1)

g1powermac (812562) | about 2 months ago | (#47272091)

The USPS has been swapping in LLVs for owner owned vehicles, but usually that only goes for routes that are under 25 miles or so and have a large number of boxes. My main route was one of these, consisting close to 25 miles with 750 boxes. What seems to be happening is what was considered 'rural' back 15 years ago isn't really rural anymore but is still being delivered by rural carriers. So in higher density areas, they're turning what was traditionally a real rural route into a sort of city/rural route with LLVs. I do have to say there is generally a fight with the carriers to get them to go over to LLVs. Most like to use their own vehicles because they're more comfortable, ie air conditioning and just better interiors. Plus, them dang LLVs are horrible in the snow with rear wheel drive and non-equal axle spacing (front tires are closer together than back for easier maneuverability around cars in good weather) vs a true 4 wheel drive jeep. It's quite fun trying to stick mail in a box while you slide by it.

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47267411)

We already made money equvalent to speech.

Now money should also be equivalent to hearing and reading?

Why not just go with one dollar, one vote?

They have the real estate, now use it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47266527)

Most people hate using the cellular network with a passion. Just hook up NFC boxes to all your big blue mailboxes, and people will hilariously be getting their email by checking a physical mailbox.

Re:They have the real estate, now use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47267237)

And don't forget the speakers to play "you have new mail"

22.6 billion pieces..... (1)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | about 2 months ago | (#47266807)

21.6 billion of that was junk mail

Re:22.6 billion pieces..... (2)

g1powermac (812562) | about 2 months ago | (#47266991)

Nah, 'bulk' mail is never sent first class. They got a rate class of their own, usually marked as 'standard'. Having a bit of inside knowledge of the post office as a former carrier, I can definitely say they make a pretty penny on all that bulk mail. This is why they won't do anything that would disrupt that revenue stream especially with the massive drop in first class (which was mostly comprised of business correspondence, ie bills and checks going back and forth).

First-class mail down but parcels up (4, Informative)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 2 months ago | (#47266937)

Mentioning the decline in first-class mail without mentioning the increase in package volume is highly misleading... but then again, ever since the pre-funding mandate nonsense in Congress there has been a rather obvious attempt to dismantle and/or privatize the USPS.

The USPS *does* need to be reformed, however. The workplace environment created by management is extremely toxic. Safety rules and labor laws are routinely violated and quality of serivce is constantly compromised in order to increase management bonuses. The various postal unions are fighting a losing battle against the abuses and the Hollywood accounting, and the increasing number of "temp" employees is going to weaken the unions' position even more.

Efficiency in operations should not just be a euphemism for barbarism in the workplace. If you want to see the war against the middle class up close and personal, just sign up to be a CCA at the Post Office.

Re:First-class mail down but parcels up (2)

g1powermac (812562) | about 2 months ago | (#47267111)

I can't give much perspective from the city carrier side, but as a former rural carrier, I didn't see much push to violate safety protocols from management. Actually, my manager was particularly up on new safety info coming from higher up and made sure we all knew about it once a week. However, I do have to say a few things on the incentives to break safety codes. All rural carriers are paid via route evaluations. So, if your route evaluates for 8.5 hours to complete, you will get paid for 8.5 hours no matter how fast or slow it takes you to complete it. So, the faster you complete, the 'more' you get paid per hour and the chance to help other carriers complete routes if there's problems. I had a time where I finished my route early and worked on a second route while still being under the evaluated time for the first route. So I was getting paid twice, evaluated time for the first route, hourly for the second. That really brings an incentive to get your route done as fast as possible despite safety rules or accuracy.

Re:First-class mail down but parcels up (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 months ago | (#47270837)

Piece work. Profits to the owner, risk to the worker. :)

Re:First-class mail down but parcels up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47267309)

If you want to see the war against the middle class up close and personal...

Your notion of the "American middle class" is just Luddism and protectionism. My father, God rest his soul, was a letter carrier, and while we in the family sympathized with some of letter carriers' struggles with management, no one thought he should be making $25/hour doing nothing but carting letters around in a quiet small town. There is only so much you can reasonably ask for when you are doing relatively unskilled labour.

Eventually I left the US and moved to a Nordic country with an even stronger union culture, and found that here letter carriers were actually paid much less and had less job security than in the US, because their union recognized that there are limits to what kind of salary one can demand. The postal system is on even better financial footing because of the United States's partly because of that, and I've seen none of the decline in service that my father and his USPS colleagues warned would happen if letter carriers couldn't make bank.

Re:First-class mail down but parcels up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47267877)

Unskilled labor? Not remotely close to true. It's a mix of blue collar and white collar, physical excision and paperwork. Very similar to being a policeman.

Re:First-class mail down but parcels up (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47269593)

The why do they hire nurses to ensure physical safety in the workplace?

US Mail Carriers Rejoice, Maybe (1)

g1powermac (812562) | about 2 months ago | (#47266951)

As a former rural carrier, I can tell you those blasted scanners the USPS gives the carriers are a total pain. They can't scan barcodes in full sunlight, which is absolutely crazy considering we're either outside or in a truck that has full windows. So next time watch your poor mail carrier try to scan your next package, especially if there isn't a cloud in the sky. You'll see us try to hide the thing in the shade, move the scanner around, and generally get aggravated at it. Something like NFC would be a godsend if its implemented correctly. Of course, however, how much of a chance is it that the USPS would actually implement it correctly?

Re:US Mail Carriers Rejoice, Maybe (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 2 months ago | (#47267179)

Would NFC really be the answer here? I would think it would still be better to pick a more robust bar code format (QR codes would offer a nice phone-app tie in for customers) and supply better quality scanners? After all you can just print a barcode/QR code...

Re:US Mail Carriers Rejoice, Maybe (1)

g1powermac (812562) | about 2 months ago | (#47267299)

Well, having anything that provides faster reading would really improve efficiency. These same scanners are used by the clerks when all trackable items arrive at the PO. So speeding both the clerks and the carriers jobs would really help.

Re:US Mail Carriers Rejoice, Maybe (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 months ago | (#47269695)

camera qr can do a match in 1-2 secs from live feed on a shitty phone.

1d barcodes are so dead.

besides, two years ago the us postal service was using qr codes for stamps already so wtf?

Re:US Mail Carriers Rejoice, Maybe (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47270449)

That's not the problem, the problem is lowest bidder or pork. The equipment is just shit. At least they finally got a decent system, I rarely have to wait on it any more. Although sometimes it is still down, which is pretty pathetic. Redundancy is just a word to the USPS

Re:US Mail Carriers Rejoice, Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47268407)

Oh my god yes. As a current rural carrier and former software engineer, it pisses me off every day that I have to use one of those scanners. It is obvious that who ever designed and built the UI never talked to a postal carrier, let alone understood how the scanner is actually used.
On top of that, the scanner is running Windows CE, and has no way of really clearing out it's database of all the scanned items. The scanner is getting slower and slower. When we first got them, the scanner would finish recording the scan as soon as the keys were pressed. Now I can get 1 or two houses away before the scan is fully recorded.

First class letter mail down, parcels are up? (3, Insightful)

whereiswaldo (459052) | about 2 months ago | (#47266955)

I receive more parcels now than ever before. Most of my shopping is done online. How is that not good for the postal service?

USPS has only increased in biz (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about 2 months ago | (#47268473)

The USPS lost on letters but it gained in package shipments. The actual numbers show they've only grown as a result; plus netflix helped a bunch with letter mailings.

Thing is they are under attack by the GOP who is ideologically against them in addition to corps funding the attack upon them. Like the 2006 scam to fund their pension out 75 years in advance which put them into debt and forced all these budget solving ideas we hear about to save them money. They are required to not lose money; by fools in congress, but the constitution defines their existence because they are THAT important to the nation. They are prevented from trying new things like more package friendly trucks or a massive electric fleet... or pricing things based upon distance traveled instead of merely doing it by weight. I can ship in state for 1/3 as much using a local private company because they don't subsidize airmail cross country (think about how such a change would shake up the economy. good? maybe.)

Just think what will happen when they ruin the middle class jobs at the USPS.... the USPS is the 2nd largest employer in the USA! (and largely self funded, but it is congress's duty to fund them at a loss if need be--- and they really should be. Like for example, how they used to deliver newspapers for free.)

Me I wouldn't think they should compete with internet; I think modern packages should also include data packets and the USPS should be our packet delivery ISP too (don't give me crap about privacy, nothing stopped the NSA and I don't like comcast spying on me so they can threaten me if somebody downloads something they police on my open wifi. There is also no reason they couldn't still have private ISPs run just run the lower level network.)

Usable tracking... (1)

Turmoyl (958221) | about 2 months ago | (#47266973)

Maybe this will help the USPS catch up their tracking system to somewhere around the the turn of the millennium.

Re:Usable tracking... (1)

kuhnto (1904624) | about 2 months ago | (#47268357)

I owe you 1 point...

The biggest problem with the Post Office can't be (1)

jcochran (309950) | about 2 months ago | (#47267045)

solved using this. You might want to look at https://www.techdirt.com/artic... [techdirt.com]

In a nutshell, the Post Office has a customer base of only about 400 companies. The actual American public is lost in the noise as far as the Post Office is concerned.

Re:The biggest problem with the Post Office can't (1)

bad-badtz-maru (119524) | about 2 months ago | (#47270993)

And it's these 400 customers who demand delivery tracking. USPS performance is inconsistent across facilities and they are always pulling tricks like "unload incoming bulk mail and let sit for 2 days before doing an inbound scan". Those 400 customers want to know why a percentage of their multi-million-dollar bulk mailing arrived in the mailbox after the sale was over. That's what drives the tracking initiatives.

That number can't be right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47267235)

$100k is like two guys and a handful of gadgets for 3 months. Hardly news worthy. For something as large and complex as USPS I would bid that for less than $1M. Invest $10M and you might get a return on the investment.

Re:That number can't be right... (1)

bad-badtz-maru (119524) | about 2 months ago | (#47271119)

It's just for a "study", aka a way to funnel govt money into the private sector.

So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47267405)

So... A "postal network" of sorts..

It's things like this.... (1)

relisher (2955441) | about 2 months ago | (#47268147)

That make me go postal

last time the post office made a profit? (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 2 months ago | (#47268421)

George Bush was in office. It takes a democrat to allow monopolies, but it takes a commie to lose money while doing it..
I would post AC, but the flames get fanned faster this way.

Re:last time the post office made a profit? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 2 months ago | (#47269257)

president does not determine post office budget nor funding

we've never had a commie president, nor even socialist one. Varying degrees of state capitalism and corporate fascism, yes.

to improve the efficiency of its operations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47269037)

First, lose the Unions.

Privatize USPS (1)

mike555 (2843511) | about 2 months ago | (#47269459)

Isn't USPS bankrupt? Privatize it already.

Postal, wonder what that means.. (1)

jppiiroinen (2664019) | about 2 months ago | (#47269583)

..all what I can think of is "what a great game" [youtube.com] .

How did the post get through thirty years ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47270127)

Before cheap computers were available, how did any country on Earth manage to run an affordable postal service? We had a better service back then, and no computers - how was this possible? What has changed since then?

Not Qualified (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47270393)

The USPS is not qualified to build an internet of anything. They have already built an internet of people, and yet it is not very good. For example, they can easily create routing loops by misentering a zip. There's a bulletin taped up in my local post office (the hub for my county) which addresses this issue, which is how I became aware of it to begin with. If they enter the wrong zip when they take in a package, then the package will bounce back and forth between the desired destination and the real destination, but never actually get delivered until a human notices the routing loop and pulls the package out of circulation for correction. But every single article is scanned and OCR'd. They have the opportunity to throw an exception when the zip is off by one digit. They're not using their existing technology to catch common mistakes. Instead of fixing it at the technological level, they sent out a memo to make sure postal workers don't screw up, because they're just not going to fix it. Let's let them figure out how to make their existing network robust against human error before they go on and try to do something even more complicated.

As an aside, my local postmaster was dumb enough to tell me that after your mail is scanned, the data is just thrown away. This was less than a month before the "revelation" (for the stupid, anyway) that the USPS was handing that data straight to the feds. You pretty much had to be a massive idiot not to assume that was happening already though, if you were aware that the mail was being scanned. I am not shocked that my postmaster is a massive idiot. He is also lazy and will stand around and jaw-jack when there are long lines. Hooray for unions.

Re:Not Qualified (1)

bad-badtz-maru (119524) | about 2 months ago | (#47271079)

No, they are not qualified, and the project wouldn't be done internally. The USPS is a treasure trove of outsourced, poorly-implemented half-done years-late projects, such as Flats Sequencing System and eInduction. The whole entity looks like a gigantic money funnel to companies like Northrup and Accenture.

So you can find where they sleep? (1)

gelfling (6534) | about 2 months ago | (#47271287)

I had to laugh when they screamed about ending Saturday service. I haven't had reliable Saturday service in over a decade. Maybe one Saturday a month maybe less. And the rest of the week is even worse. On a good week we get mail 4 of the 5 days and when it comes, if it comes it's after 7pm. We stopped leaving mail for pickup years ago because if it didn't get lost, it would add 2 days to delivery. As it is, it take 5 days to send a 1st class letter to an address in the same zipcode. The USPS is Welfare for fat drunk diabetics.

I have an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47272071)

What if everyone had a machine at their house, that would copy and digitize paper, then send it to the receiver where it was printed out? /oh nevermind

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