We have uploaded to our library a paper from the 2000 Rutgers conference held in Vancouver, Canada. In this highly readable, and well-thought through short paper (8 pages), the authors make the case for a personal identifying “address” which one would carry for a lifetime. Rather than have to tell people how to find you when you move, the postal service would do it for you. When addressing a letter to someone, you would use their name and their lifetime address, nothing more. On intake, the OCR machine, connected to the master database, would find the delivery address of that number, barcode the letter for additional processing and service provision, and put the physical address on the envelope for the benefit of the letter carrier.
The authors discuss the benefits of this system, such as reducing undeliverable as addressed mail and providing a tool for delivery of additional services. They also anticipate some of the objections to this system, such as privacy concerns.
There are other objections, of course, not the least being the likely substantial human resistance to change in implementing such a revolutionary concept. It would probably require a generation. The concept also would need to consider international mail. It is unlikely the entire world could be talked into this sort of change, and so parallel systems would be required. In fact, in large parts of the world the postal systems don’t have the capability or resources to deploy the technology required.
Finally, I can think of the data processing and marketing industries howling in pain that they could no longer segment by geography with only a personal postal identifier as a mailing point. That postal code is a key to success in targeting for many, many businesses.
But, of course, there are responses and solutions to all of these objections. Technologies are cheaper, for example, and the USPS could always, for a fee I suppose, offer to append postal codes to a marketer’s database so he could do his segmentation.
So we make this paper available to keep the idea in the marketplace and as part of the mix in developing the concept of the address and improved postal services.