A Postal Service letter employee carries a load of mail. The Postal Service will give 175,000 mobile phones as part of its plan to collect real-time data and enable wireless communication from employees in the field. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
The Postal Service is deploying about 175,000 mobile phones as part of its plan to collect real-time data and enable wireless communication from employees in the field, according to a top agency official.
John Edgar, the vice president of information technology, said postal letter carriers have long been equipped with scanners that log the time and location of deliveries, but have lacked a way to upload that information instantly at the point of delivery. Postal workers would have to return to a postal facility to load the data into online tracking systems.
“We would have hours of unavailable tracking data that we were not able to present back to our customers or the mailers,” he said.
But now the agency has been rolling out Bluetooth-enabled cellphones that can take the information from the scanner and upload it in real time, according to Edgar.
“Now, by getting that data in real time, we are able to much more efficiently and timely present that data to people that are querying the packages so that they have better ability to track the packages and know where they are,” he said.
Edgar said the Postal Service will fully deploy the cellphones by the end of September. He added that this was the first step in building out the capabilities that postal workers could have in the field.
He said he could not specifically list what capabilities they were developing but that they would be able to enhance what postal workers would be able to do for their customers.
“There are a number of services we are envisioning that once we have real time communications and potentially voice communications to the carriers that we would be able to use to enhance the capabilities that they have and the things they can do on their route,” Edgar said.
He said the Postal Service IT structure is one of the largest and most complex in the world and the agency is always looking for ways to improve its process or cut costs.
Mobile devices are central to that strategy, Edgar said. Advances in technology allow the agency to lower costs and improve their data analysis and put that information into the hands of employees who need it when they need it.
He said that while the agency does not allow postal workers to accept payments while delivering items, the new wireless capability would give the agency that capability.
“With the technology, we would have the capability if we chose to do so,” Edgar said.