USPS Official: First Priority with Internet of Things is Cost Cutting

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Because Postal Service doesn't receive taxpayer money for its operating expenses, it must make a solid business case for each new program.

The future of mail delivery could include sensor-equipped mailboxes that text recipients when packages arrive, or that adjust their temperature to keep food or medicine deliveries fresh. At least, that's according to a report the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General released earlier this month, urging the Postal Service to investigate how the Internet of Things could transform its operations. 

But at a recent conference on the Internet of Things in Washington, USPS IT Program Manager Kelley Sullivan told an audience the agency's first priority with emerging technology is cutting costs. 

Because Postal Service doesn't receive taxpayer money for its operating expenses, "for everything we do, we have to make sure we have a solid business case, and we can return some revenue to the organization to sustain it," Sullivan said.  

If the agency came up with a compelling technology solution, she said, "we could partner with an agency like maybe [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and do something to help them monetize ... to companies that could integrate [it into] their software tools."

Though the Postal Service sometimes gets the opportunity to create technology "strictly for the greater good" without a sound revenue stream, those efforts are "typically through the White House or other organizations."

Later, she added that the Postal Service's workforce unions are "partners with the Postal Service" in the conversation about the impact of new technology on USPS jobs. Some traditional services such as mail delivery could undergo "reinvention." Letter carriers of the future, for example, may provide additional services, such as the grocery delivery tests USPS is currently conducting, she said.