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Thursday, November 20, 2014

UPU News:- Internet of postal things offers food for thought

The Universal Postal Union is encouraging the world’s Posts to wake up to the ‘internet of postal things’ and embrace technology to better serve citizens

At a recent forum on this theme at UPU headquarters in Berne, Switzerland, delegates from the UPU community gathered to hear speakers from Posts, academia and private-technology companies.
The topic was a throw-back to the ‘internet of things’ or the use of sensor technologies that enable physical objects to collect and communicate data in real-time through the internet.
The big data generated can then be analysed, offering postal operators the opportunity to extract additional value to drive business.
Alexander Ilic, an assistant professor at the Federal School of Technology in Zurich, impressed upon delegates the low costs of jumping on the big-data bandwagon.
“Data is king and low-cost technology is available that makes dumb things smart,” he said.
He mentioned examples, such as attaching radio-frequency-identification or RFID tags (“smart”) to inventory items (“dumb”) to enable the tracking of the latter.


However, Ilic also sounded a note of caution. “The mistake some make is they think that the more data they collect, the better, but they have no idea what to do with it.”
He added that modern analytic tools were helping to process the huge amounts of data being generated. He compared this to “what ultrasound has done for medicine”.
For the UPU’s part, José Ansón, an in-house expert, said analysing big postal data generated by mail movements could bring new efficiencies into the postal business. “Data collaboration will define the boundaries of postal network in the future, what brings value to it and what could destroy it.”
However, a change in mind set in postal operators is needed, he added.
One such operator showing this change is Costa Rica’s Post. It has agreed to share its data with the UPU as part of a joint project with the United Nations Global Pulse. The latter is attached to the UN Secretary General’s Office and explores big data for development purposes.

Business speaks

The business case to get on board was clearly there for other players in the postal market. Mark Van Der Horst, director, EU public  affairs, at UPS Europe, the private express carrier, said that the objective of using big data was to improve the customer experience.
“Twenty-five years ago, simple spreadsheets with parcel forecasts on route, truck or plane with historic data were used,” he said. “Today, we can get a more accurate picture of where parcels are and how to move them.”
The forum was organized in conjunction with the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General.

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