Using RFID to Solve Postal Address Problems

RFID could be used to match a company or individual to a physical address, greatly reducing misdirected mail.
Published: August 6, 2010

When we run our events, we often send brochures to readers via the postal system. Each time we do this, a percentage of brochures are returned as undeliverable to the address to which they were sent. This is true even though we use the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) database to confirm the validity of addresses and update them when companies move.

There are many reasons for this problem. Addresses are often incomplete. But just as often, the USPS database is out of date or inaccurate. Buildings get knocked down but are still considered valid addresses, while new roads and buildings are not yet entered into the database.

These returns cost a lot of money, as any company that does direct mail knows. So I’ve been trying to think of a way radio frequency identification might be used to solve this problem. Here is what I’ve come up with:

Each address—a building, an apartment, an office suite or whatever—would get an RFID transponder with a Global Location Number (GLN). GLN is a standard established by GS1, and many factories, distribution centers and stores already have one. The GLN would be stored in the transponder, which would be attached to the address either at a mailbox, a building doorway or an apartment mailbox.

Each individual, family or company occupying an address would receive an RFID tag as well, containing a unique identification number. I’m going to call this the Global Entity Identification Number, or GEIN. The RFID tag with the GEIN would be placed next to the transponder with the GLN. Both would need to be protected so they couldn’t be stolen or easily vandalized. Once a month, the post office would have its mail carriers associate each GEIN with each GLN, and that information would then be updated in the postal service’s database.

When a person, family or company moves, they would take the GEIN tag and place it next to the GLN tag at their new address. A postal carrier who knows that someone new has moved in could then read the two tags immediately, or the new occupant could be updated the next time the carriers performed their monthly association of GEIN and GLN tags.

Some people and companies might forget to bring their GEIN tags with them, but they could simply be charged a small fee to have them delivered by the postal service. This would ensure that the correct person, family or company was always associated with the proper address.

Of course, those who have not paid their income tax, alimony or credit card bill would probably not want to be associated with any particular address. They wouldn’t like this system that much.

e-mail me or respond to this blog if you’d like to help refine or develop this system.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor’s Note archive.