The postal service as geographic DNS (Orange Cone)

envelope_-_boonville_address-small

[Editor’s note: The 2010 Census Address Canvassing does this already for 145 million residential address, thus proving the concept could be expanded to include commercial addresses. I’m always curious about the accuracy and precision of geocoders. How about “front door” instead of rooftop (which often just means parcel centroid)! ;) Thanks Michal!]

Republished from Orange Cone.
By Mike Kuniavsky.

I was recently at a bar with a bunch of other technology designers. The conversation turned to the postal service.

Problem: the US Postal Service is in financial trouble

America’s postal service was partially privatized in the 1980s, so it needs to make about as much money as it costs to operate if it’s to survive. It’s having a difficult time doing that and has lost billions of dollars per year for the last several years, borrowing from the federal government to stay afloat. As the second-largest civilian employer in the US after Wal-Mart (that’s a sobering statistic in itself, on several levels), this means that it has quite a bit of overhead, while being at the receiving end of two technologically-induced competitive challenges:

  • Casual letters have largely been replaced by email
  • And package delivery has to compete with FedEx, UPS, DHL

Moreover, these other delivery services don’t necessarily have to honor the post office’s mandated responsibility to deliver mail to anywhere in the US (this is called the “universal service obligation”).

Proposal: the Postal Service should become the geographic DNS….

Here’s what I came up with in the bar: the US Postal Service (USPS) needs to become the equivalent of the Domain Name Service for geographic locations. DNS is the digital service that translates human-readable domain names such as orangecone.com into IP addresses, such as 168.75.111.15. This, more or less, is exactly what the USPS already does, but it’s still tied to the sender writing the actual physical address on the letter. However, as any recipient of a slightly mis-addressed letter that still arrived knows, the service is actually pretty good at figuring out where the letter is going. The USPS is already resolving ambiguous address data into physical locations. It’s been doing it for years.

Continue reading at Orange Cone . . .

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