Postal Updates

Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

‘Voice Stamp’: experimental USPS project could spell the demise of postage stamps

June 09, 2017 10:30 AM

  • A video posted in late May on YouTube introduces a concept called ‘Voice Stamp’: a proposed experimental postal project that would place a small electronic box on the top of those familiar blue mail collection boxes.

Washington Postal Scene — By Bill McAllister

The United States Postal Service is hinting about doing away with stamps.

At least that’s the suggestion being made on a YouTube video that touts a proposed experimental postal project that would place a small electronic box on the top of those familiar blue mail collection boxes.

Officials acknowledged that the Postal Service is planning to test the “Smart Blue Box” concept, created by MRM/McCann, a New York advertising agency, but offered no details about when and where the project might begin.

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A comment about the video, posted on YouTube May 29, calls the device “Voice Stamp.”

It describes it as an “upcoming new feature of the Smart Blue Box from the U.S. Postal Service,” saying it “will get rid of the antiquated stamp and make postage paperless. A completely new way to mail letters and packages — sans stamps.”

Asked to comment, the Postal Service described the device as a “prototype” that “combines the power of the Post Office with the convenience of the iconic blue USPS collection boxes.”

According to the video, the solar-powered device would allow a customer to ask whether mail has been collected from that box.

It contains a scale that would allow a small parcel to be weighed for mailing and apparently a device that would produce a mailing label with postage to be affixed to a parcel. No stamps would be used.

“All you have to do is ask,” says the USPS in its explanation of the device.

“Equipped with the latest artificial intelligence and connected to multiple postal computer programs, the Smart Blue Box is the latest demonstration of seamless customer service,” it says.

“You can ask if a carrier has collected the box already or for a delivery date and time of a package,” the Postal Service says.

“You can even use it to calculate postage with the scale. It can tell you or text you directions to the closest [postal] retail location, along with specific hours.

“In a future state, it could deliver a postage code to write on the package for immediate drop-off, using voice recognition to charge your account.”

The Postal Regulatory Commission typically has to approve tests of new postal devices, but a PRC spokeswoman told Linn’s there has been no filing on the proposed device.

Given the Postal Service’s financial troubles, it isn’t clear from the sparse information provided how the USPS could finance widespread installation and maintenance of the devices.