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The future of mail: world's first 'intelligent' stamp issued in Britain

The future of mail: world's first 'intelligent' stamp issued in Britain

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Britain's Royal Mail issued this week what it calls the "world's first intelligent stamp," which links to online content using mobile image recognition technology.

Britain's Royal Mail issued this week what it calls the "world's first intelligent stamp," which links to online content using mobile image recognition technology.

The new stamp, which is part of the Royal Mail's latest Great British Railways series, acts as a digital launchpad when used with an Apple iPhone or Google Android-based smartphone.

To find the hidden content, a user must scan the stamp using the phone's built-in camera. Through a downloadable application called Junaio, the stamp scan then triggers related online content -- in the case of the Great British Railways series, a reading of W.H. Auden's 1936 poem "The Night Train."

For now, the interactive augmented reality technology merely hides nuggets of bonus educational content, but it's clear that the technology could be used for more practical means: perhaps one day, you'll be able to scan your mail to see where and when it traveled across the country, just like the folks at USPS, UPS and FedEx do.

The Royal Mail says it's the first time a national postal service used this kind of technology on its stamps. The question: will future generations of philatelists appreciate this tech, or will it be relegated to the dusty shelf of fleeting, now-obsolete innovations?

Photo: A video of English actor Bernard Cribbins reading "The Night Train" via the stamp's hidden online link.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure