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USPS explores concept of 'Internet of Postal Things'
Updated On: Jun 22, 2014

The Internet of Things – the ability to embed sensors and other data collection technologies into physical objects, infrastructures, and the surroundings in which people live and businesses operate – is one of the latest technology revolutions that are affecting the nature of business.

Fuelled by the declining cost of sensors, wireless data connectivity and storage, the Internet of Things opens up virtually unlimited opportunities to collect and process data from any device, infrastructure, machine and even human beings.

The U.S. Postal Service has always been a major creator of large datasets – from mail origin/destination information to quality of service data, and letter mail scans.

The application of sensors and other data collection technologies to the various components of the postal infrastructure (vehicles, mailboxes, machines, letter carriers etc.), combined with powerful software and analytical tools, could help the Postal Service bring data management to the next level. It would create new rich data sources that could help the Postal Service improve operational performance, customer service, create new products and services, and support more efficient decision-making processes. The “Internet of Postal Things” could also have a positive spillover effect on other adjacent non-postal sectors, as the information collected by and for the Postal Service could be useful to others

Several posts are already using sensors to solve operational issues, such as predictive vehicle fleet maintenance. Innovative uses in areas different from postal operations are also under experimentation, such as the use of handheld terminals as a source of consumer data, or the use of sensors on postal trucks to collect environmental data that could benefit local governments.

Given the potential of these new data collection technologies and the benefits that their use is already generating for other postal operators, the OIG/RARC plans to conduct research to explore the concept of the Internet of Things, its implications, and how it could apply to the Postal Service.

The supplier is expected to conduct research on the above described topics, submit research notes with supporting documentation to the OIG that it could use to prepare a whitepaper, present the research findings during a one-day workshop to be held at the OIG premised in Arlington, VA, assist the OIG in the preparation and review of the white paper.

In order to accomplish the above scope, the supplier shall perform the following tasks:

a) Research the current and near-future developments of the Internet of Things, provide a workable definition, major facts, trends and implications for the Postal Service;

b) Provide a vision for the Internet of Things applied to the Postal Service (the Internet of Postal Things – IoPT): a conceptual design of how new sensor and other data collection technologies could increase the ability of Postal Service infrastructure to create value to its business, customers and stakeholders through data;

c) Identify the components of the postal physical infrastructure that could lend themselves to the collection of new types of data. The supplier will also describe the connectivity between these various components, the type of data that could be collected, the data flows and the information that could be extracted from the data. Existing Postal

Service’s sensor-based technology, devices and data will also be included in this analysis;

d) Use visual mapping tools to depict how connected elements of the postal infrastructure might interact with each other and show data flows – i.e., how in theory could sensor data be integrated into Postal Service’s and clients’ information systems, or integrated into external partners’ sensors and data;

e) Identify possible areas of application for the data collected. Although the main objective is identify applications able to serve internal business goals, (e.g. operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, or revenue generation through the creation of new data-based products and services), the supplier will also explore other opportunities. They may include the opportunity for the Postal Service to make available its infrastructure for the collection of data that can provide value for businesses, government and local communities, or the opportunity to integrate postal data with external public data to extract information that can help predict trends;

f) Propose and explore concrete examples of IoPT-based services that could be developed in the main areas of application identified. These examples will be selected in coordination with the OIG. Some of them may be based on actual services tested or implemented in the U.S. and global postal and logistics industries, or in other sectors. However the supplier is requested to combine industry knowledge and out-of-the-box thinking to ideate applications that do not exist in the postal sector but would add value to Postal Service’s or its customers’ products and processes. For each of these services, the supplier will describe benefits, main implementation issues, barriers and success factors, including potential privacy and transparency issues. Nevertheless, as indicated above, they will not be addressed in detail as part of this project;

g) In furtherance of points 3,5 and 6, at the request of and with the assistance of the OIG, conduct relevant primary research (e.g., interviews) with selected stakeholders, such as the Postal Service, other postal operators, customers and other organizations;

h) Provide the OIG research notes with the above described findings that are well written, concise and in a single voice. The notes must include documentation of references and source materials. The OIG expects the research notes to be drafted, both in terms of quality of the content and style, in a way that make them easy to be included into a white paper that the OIG plans to write on this topic. It should be noted the contractor will not be asked to write the white paper.

i) Present the research findings at a one-day internal workshop to be held at RARC’s HQ in Arlington, VA. The objective of the workshop will be to select the most relevant findings and message to be included in the white paper;

j) The OIG will use the above research notes and workshop outcome to develop its own white paper. The contractor will assist the OIG with the preparation and review of the white paper and/or presentation on The Internet of Things applied to the Postal Service, to help ensure its factual accuracy and its ability to present a compelling argument. In this support role, the contractor will not be asked to conduct any additional research, nor to write any part of the white paper.

k) Be available to participate in meetings including brainstorming meetings and/or a potential roundtable after the release of the white paper.

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