Today’s world is characterized by globalization, liberalization, deregulation, and technological advances challenges posts’ monopolistic position as the sole providers of postal services. Their only opportunity to withstand increased competition is to raise the bar for performance and efficiency standards of mail sorting and the quality and variety of services offered. Having the advantage of directly servicing the most consumers of any communication-related industry on earth, posts have the opportunity to convert expensive, paper-related, immobile postal mail service into an advanced and more robust form of hybrid service, offering consumers choices about paper or other media. This will enable both the postal industry and customers to benefit from opportunities technological progress is creating in the communications market, and the trend towards convergence of e-commerce and communications.
There are already a few successful services based on this convergence that are aimed at bridging the gap between traditional mail and electronic communications. One such service is the concept of digital mailrooms. A digital mailroom uses automated solutions to capture business critical information from both paper (incoming mail, faxes, and other) and electronic sources (e-mails, web form data); classify that information according to its format or content compared with the business rules of the organization, and to route it to the appropriate destination. Recent advancements in optical character recognition (OCR), intelligent text recognition, and forms processing enabled fully digital mailrooms, making them a reality today. The digital mailroom of today is only one step to the next level of service: the digital post office. The digital post office is the most innovative service, promising significant benefits to both customers and posts. The same technology that supports digital mailrooms provides the opportunity to digitize consumer mail, which may combine traditional, incoming mail sorting, document processing elements, and remotely accessible postal mail into a single automation solution. This service is an answer to the urgent needs of our modern and dynamic society, where individuals and corporations work efficiently in a remote mode.
Remotely Accessible Postal Mail
The exterior of a mailpiece can be scanned while it is still in the post office or at national network of sorting and scanning locations. Its digitized image can be presented to a service subscriber via a web interface, while the physical mail stays stored at a postal location until the recipient makes a decision about its further processing. Break-through intelligent recognition technology is used to analyze the image, and enables the location and reading of areas of interest on mailpieces (including the recipient’s name and address, sender’s name and address, barcodes, labels, logos, stamps, various indicia, meter marks, airmail stickers, and other data), impossible in the recent past.
This service lets subscribers receive text-based information via computer or cell phone for easy access and fast downloads. Based on data captured from the mailpiece it may be processed according to customer’s requirements. Thus, irrelevant envelopes can be trashed and recycled; solicitors’ offers, that may contain confidential information subject to identity theft, can be shredded, while important mail may be re-directed to another recipient, shipped to a customer, or have its content scanned and made available for download. One of the most important advantages of this service is the reduction of time before an action can be taken on a given a piece of mail. For example, the time it takes to process incoming payments can be greatly reduced. Mailpieces that contain bills can be determined based on information captured from an envelope, allowing them to be opened, scanned, automatically recognized, presented to the customer to approve via a webform, and paid either via ECN or by generating a paper check against a customer’s checking account.
These new solutions are in an early adoption stage and can either partially replace or complement traditional approaches. The benefits are numerous: speed and convenience of delivery, security and cost effectiveness, elimination of paper, and improved customer satisfaction.
Learn more about the latest advancements in postal automation: