Companies Bet on Latest Products at MailcomAlong with the rate case and ABE startup, other postal issues concerned attendees at the Mailcom '98 mail communications convention in Atlantic City, NJ, late last month.
Postage meters and the phase-out of mechanical postage meters by next year; the growth of electronic postage; ways to use NCOA most effectively; and the future of electronic billing also were on the agenda.
And many companies showed off postal-related products. Here are highlights:
IBIP: Many attendees were interested in the USPS' Information Based Indicia Program, which lets customers purchase stamps online. The only vendor approved to offer this product right now is E-Stamp, Palo Alto, CA, which did not have a booth at Mailcom. But NeoPost, Pitney Bowes and Ascom Hansler -- who have products in alpha test -- were there.
NeoPost, Hayward, CA, displayed its entries, Postage Plus and PC Stamp. With PC Stamp, users call a toll-free number and connect to the system through PC Stamp software and a modem. The software prompts users to fill in the amount of postage to be added to their meters or debited from their NeoPost account. The software and a peripheral products also provide secure storage of postage.
Company spokesman Neil Graver said PC Stamp will cost "$99 for the software, which is developed by Envelope Manager, and users can rent the security device for about 15 per month."
Postage Plus allows small businesses to download postage stamps as two-dimensional barcodes through a dedicated NeoPost site. Users simply log onto this site, which provides an interface for addressing and applying postage to envelopes or labels. Graver said he could not speculate on pricing.
All of these companies said that they have been testing their products for several months and that they are awaiting USPS approval. Virtually all said they the products should be put into beta test shortly.
NCOA: Pitney Bowes Software Systems, Chicago, displayed the latest version of ForwardTrak 2.0. This in-house solution corrects existing mailing lists because of customer moves. Developed in partnership with the USPS' Move Update requirement, ForwardTrak provides a certified interface to the postal service's FastForward change-of-address information system.
The new version has a graphical user interface to create and edit jobs and a built-in Code Accuracy Support System-certified postal coding system that allows users who do not have their own CASS software to cleanse addresses as part of the USPS' Move Update requirement processing. ForwardTrak can be used with any available CASS-certified product.
Mailing software: BCC Software Inc., Rochester, NY, displayed the newest version of its Mail Manager program, Mail Manager 2010. This product includes NCOA updating and also offers palletization, merge/purge and postal presorting. The 32-bit system can start as many tasks as the user wishes and keep them running at the same time. For example, the user can simultaneously ZIP+4 encode one list and perform a presort on another while NCOA move updating a group of lists.
Firstlogic Inc., La Crosse WI, displayed its Postalsoft products and demonstrated how they work in conjunction with the Clavis line of address-management data from AND Information Technology, Netherlands. The partnership allows AND Information Technology's household-level address information on 28 counties -- and its formatting database comprising the 195 countries recognized by the Universal Postal Union -- to merge with Postalsoft's products that standardize addresses, assign postal codes and merge/purge data.
The software organizes U.S. and international addresses so that they look similar and lets customers update and clean both mailing lists. This is important, because international addresses do not follow the four- or five-line formats that Americans are used to.
Mailer's Software, San Clemente, CA, discussed plans to release a 32-bit version of its Mailers+4Gold postal processing software for Windows. The new version, which will debut in June, will process as many as 15 lists simultaneously, allow multiple-level formatting per file and perform one-pass postal presorting.
The Mailers+4Gold database will be updated bimonthly and will contain information that can be selected and added to each record in a mailing list during address-check processing. Data includes county FIPS codes, congressional district, latitude and longitude, time zones and telephone area codes.
Envelope Manager Software, Palo Alto, CA, displayed its DAZzle Express mailing software. Designed for the small-office, home office market, this product uses Dial-A-ZIP technology and the Internet to provide real-time address verification and correction. This product was simultaneously introduced with Microsoft's Direct Mail Manager software module (as part of Microsoft's Office 97's Small Business Edition v. 2) in March, which Envelope Manager created. However, unlike that product, DAZzle Express adds support for more discount mailing options, larger mailing lists and comes bundled with an envelope and design utility.
Electronic meters: Most major companies were displaying their latest electronic meters since all mechanical high-speed meters must be converted to electric ones by the end of this year and all small businesses' mechanical meters must be converted by March 1999. On display were the Personal Post Office electronic meter from Pitney Bowes, Stamford, CT, and Model 120 1 or 220 1 mailing systems from Ascom Hansler's, Shelton, CT, among others.