USPS Barcoding Program to Use Commercial Database

The U.S. Postal Service will test a commercial database to improve the performance of the remote computer reader devices that scan mail for address information, the USPS announced in the Federal Register yesterday.

Under the Distribution Quality Improvement program, the USPS hopes to raise the percentage of non-barcoded mail it can process automatically. The commercial database is potentially more useful because, unlike the postal service's in-house database of addresses, it includes individual name information.

RCRs automatically scan non-barcoded mail for address information, match the information against the USPS Address Management System database — which contains the addresses but no individual names — and imprint the mail with barcodes for processing. When RCRs fail to find a match, mail must be sent to a Remote Encoding Center for manual matching and sorting by USPS employees.

From 1996 to 2004, the match rate for RCRs has risen from 35 percent to 90 percent, reducing the need for manual matching at RECs from 24 billion pieces yearly to 6 billion.

Some mail remains unreadable by RCRs, often due to varying address formats (such as north, south, east and west directionals), illegible or missing text and technical problems that include inserts misaligned with envelope windows.

When mail compared with the AMS database produces no match, the USPS plans to try to match the mail against the commercial database. For example, mail addressed to John Doe at 123 Main St. might fail to match against the AMS database, but a comparison against the commercial database would reveal that a John Doe lives at 123 Main St. S, and a match would be made.

The USPS plans to test DQI at postal offices in New York state from September 2004 until spring 2005. If successful, the USPS wants to start deploying the system nationally as soon as May 2005.

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