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Can the Postal Service fleet become a data collection network?

Can the Postal Service fleet become a data collection network?

Posting in Government

The Postal Service's woes are well-known---it needs to cut jobs and somehow avoid insolvency---but its network of trucks could be retooled for other uses. That's where things get interesting.

The Postal Service's woes are well-known---it needs to cut jobs and somehow avoid insolvency---but its network could be retooled for other uses.

That's the argument from Michael Ravnitzky, chief counsel to the chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission. Ravnitzky's big idea---expressed in the New York Times---goes like this:

  • Take the Postal Service truck network;
  • Equip those trucks with sensors to collect and transmit information about weather and air pollutants;
  • The data collection would cover the entire country and benefit the government on the security and climate fronts.

Ravnitzky wrote:

The service’s thousands of delivery vehicles have only one purpose now: to transport mail. But what if they were fitted with sensors to collect and transmit information about weather or air pollutants? The trucks would go from being bulky tools of industrial-age communication to being on the cutting edge of 21st-century information-gathering and forecasting.

Add it up and the Postal Service could count that National Weather Service as a big customer. The Department of Homeland Security would also be interested to collect data on anomalies. Toss in real-time road assessments and the idea is pretty interesting.

Now comes the hard part. Will Congress go along with this idea? What about privacy concerns? Those questions could be overcome. After all, I'm not seeing a big line of folks with realistic plans to save the Postal Service.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure