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Summary

Summary of Technical Analysis

Alternatives to optical character recognition technology. As a starting point, OTA

examined possible alternatives to optical character recognition

technology.

Optical

character

recognition

technology

reads

characters (letters and numbers) forms such as a bar code.

and

recodes

these

characters

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

paper.

As long as this

technology

of

choice.

is

the

case,

then

optical

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).

OTA reviewed

the

single-line

OCRs

now

being

installed

by

USPS.

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,

the

already

installed

OCRs

now

essentially

meet

USPS

performance

specifications.

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.

stage

to

operational

OCR units.

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

6

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