WATCH | Uncle Sam's shipping provider of choice has some high-tech innovations in the works.
Technology and ... the Postal Service?
At this week's CES, the biggest annual gadget convention in the world, the United States Postal Service was among the many exhibitors in attendance. Why? Because the government-run mail carrier wants everyone to know that neither snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness will keep it from bringing new innovations and tech-enabled conveniences to its rock-solid service. (Don't look so surprised.)
An app to replace standing in line
If you've been to a USPS station recently, you know there are now automated kiosks at most locations to spare you from standing in those window lines. The only problem: The kiosks have lines of their own half the time.
The new shipping app the USPS is developing may be the solution. It will let customers, with just their phone, scan a Priority Mail box, pay for it with a thumb print and send a shipping label to a nearby printer. No kiosk or window line.
A talking drop-off box
Ever feel nervous leaving your mail in one of those blue drop-off boxes on the side of the street? You may have asked yourself, "Did I use enough stamps?" or, "Will someone really come to pick my letter up?"
With the new blue collection box the Post Office is working on, you may soon just be able to just ask it: "Hey, when is the next pickup?" And it will answer, along with questions about postage requirements and directions to the nearest Post Office if you need one.
A shipping box that notifies the sender when it's opened
Probably the coolest thing the USPS is tinkering with in its innovation lab: A shipping box that will notify the sender when the receiver has opened it. Think Christmas gifts, birthday presents or even important businesses packages.
The box would have a very small 3G wireless chip built into its cardboard casing. It's one-time "opened" signal broadcast, powered by a very small battery built into the box, would trigger when the seal on the package is broken.
When will my local Post Office look like this?
Of course, the gizmos and upgrades USPS is showing at CES this year are purely conceptual, and the agency said it isn't certain when or if they'll be coming to your neighborhood. So, if we're reading this right, as sure as you know there'll be useless coupons and bills stacked upon bills in your mailbox the next time you open it, you should be able to count on the USPS to continue to at least explore new ways to innovate good old fashioned .gov shipping.