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Smart first-mile communications

Patrick Armstrong, CEO of Snaile, explains how the Internet of Things can be leveraged to provide greater efficiency when it comes to street letter-box collections

Many postal services have first-mile street letter boxes that they use to collect outgoing mail deposited by people. These boxes are usually emptied regularly — sometimes up to seven times per week — so that each post upholds its service level agreement to taxpayers, as required by local laws.

These boxes sit passively on the street and have no smart technology to inform operators whether or not they need emptying or how often they are used. This lack of information begs two key questions about efficient mail collection:

1. How can postal operators determine which boxes need emptying each day?
2. How can postal operators monitor their street letter box network to reduce the overall network size and vehicle fleet as letter mail usage rates decline amongst the general public?

These questions can not be answered without the introduction of monitoring technology to provide real, empirical data in real-time. Today’s postal operators have no such technology at their disposal; if any exists, it is in the form of anecdotal data.

The Internet of Things
However, Internet of Things (IoT) smart technology can provide this information for the postal operator as a key tool for the efficient running of the service. It can be installed in street letter boxes and the device is able to report how often these boxes are used and which boxes have outgoing mail. Armed with this information, a daily route plan can be created and sent to a mobile application allowing postal workers to skip the street letter boxes that are empty and only check those letter boxes that have mail.

The device will help reduce costs in the network. For example, IoT technology may show a 10% empty box rate. This would mean that each day that percentage of the first-mile letter mail box network does not need to be checked. If this data is acted upon, this would reduce daily first-mile operational costs by the same amount. The savings would also then translate into a 10% reduction in vehicle fleet size over the long term.

As the rate of letter mail usage falls, these savings would increase and the IoT technology would show the fall in real-time and over the duration of the decline in use of the post boxes.

Environmental savings
These operational cost savings also translate into environmental savings. Being able to reduce trips to empty first-mile boxes and therefore downsize a vehicle fleet (or having the ability to optimize the range of an electric fleet) will help postal operators mitigate their carbon footprint. This would help them carry out the environmental guidelines such as those promoted by the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) OSCAR program.

With IoT technology, postal operators can do their part for the environment by eliminating unnecessary first-mile mailbox checks and reducing their bloated fleets as mail volumes fall.

The same IoT devices can also be used to monitor street letter box usage over time. The technology will monitor the reduction in the use of the postal boxes over the period of its use and provide empirical data that will help postal operators and lawmakers make decisions on the reduction of services and the overall postal networks, if necessary.

Aggregating data now will make these decisions more possible and actionable, and may help stimulate investment in other innovations.

Bio:
Patrick Armstrong is the CEO of Snaile and the winner of the 2016 Digital Innovation of the Year Award by Postal Technology International for its first- and last-mile IoT technology, which creates first-mile operational cost savings and last-mile consumer mailbox revenues. Armstrong is an accomplished entrepreneur and business leader who has continued delivering an impressive success portfolio across multiple industries. Since 1999, he has helped to develop and launch five companies which have all enjoyed both acclaim and distinction.

December 13, 2016

 

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