Live from National Postal Forum: Intelligent Mailing, Intelligent Barcodes

Washington—Everyone wants to mail intelligently. Little wonder, then, that the Intelligent Mail barcode was the talk of the National Postal Forum here Monday.

An improvement on the current 4-State Customer barcode, the Intelligent Mail barcode is a 65-bar U.S. Postal Service barcode used to sort and track letters and flats. It also expands mailers’ ability to track individual pieces of mail and provides greater visibility into the mail stream. Although use of the Intelligent Mail barcode is optional now, it will be required to qualify for automation discounts beginning in 2009.

In a session here, Deputy Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that mail using the Intelligent Mail barcode is 10 times less expensive to deliver than other automated mail. Currently a mail piece can have as many as four barcode areas—for sortation, confirmation service, address change service, and other optional services. Intelligent Mail barcodes, however, contain all of that information in a single barcode.

“It’s a very powerful tool that can be used in many ways,” Charles Bravo, the USPS’s senior vice president for Intelligent Mail and Address Quality, said in the same session. Already there are 80,000 Intelligent Mail barcode scanners in the field, and that number will rise to 300,000 by September.

Mailers have the option of using the Intellingent Mail barcode for OneCode Confirm and OneCode ACS. OneCodeACS provides mailers with automated address corrections when a piece of mail cannot be delivered. OneCode Confirm provides information on when the USPS receives your mail and when it is sorted.

To use the Intelligent Mail barcode, a mailer needs a Business Entity ID. The last nine digits of the Intelligent Mail barcode’s tracking information—the sequence number—are reserved for mailers to uniquely identify each piece of mail. The Intelligent Mail barcode includes up to 20 tracking digits and 11 zip code digits.