Summary of Technical Analysis
Alternatives to optical character recognition technology. As a starting point, OTA
examined possible alternatives to optical character recognition
characters (letters and numbers) forms such as a bar code.
for postal automation printed alphanumeric into machine-readable
OTA identified several electronic, magnetic, and mechanical alternatives to optical character recognition. However, OTA concluded that, at least for the U.S. mail, it is as yet difficult to improve on the information-carrying ability, readability, and cost
effectiveness of printed characters on character recognition technology is the
As long as this
Electronic mail is likely to be the strongest competitor of postal automation. But there most likely will be a significant residual volume of paper mail at least through the year 2000. Thus there is a window of opportunity for further USPS use of paper-based automation technology.
Alternatives to a 9-digit ZIP code. OTA found that there are alternative codes. However, OTA concluded that at this juncture there is no realistic alternative. The 5- digit ZIP is almost universally accepted and used (98 percent usage); the 9-digit ZIP directory is now completed; and ZIP+4 codes are being distributed to large business mailers.
If ZIP+4 becomes widely used, USPS could consider adding a tenth digit (for error checking purposes) at some future time. (Note: The USPS bar code already includes a correction character. ) Only if ZIP+4 does not become widely used could alternative codes realistically be considered.
Performance of single-line available data on performance of
optical character readers (OCRs).
Single-line OCRs read State, and 5- or 9-digit
only the last line of an address -- usually containing the city, ZIP code. OTA concluded that, despite initial start-up problems,
Performance of multi-line OCRs.
Over the last few years, multi-line
technology has emerged from the laboratory and prototype Multi-line machines read up to four lines of the address.
OTA concluded that, as of May 1984, the preponderance of evidence indicates that multi-line OCR performance is essentially equivalent to single-line for reading 9-digit ZIP mail, and that multi-line performance is substantially better for reading 5-digit ZIP