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Communications

The Future of Stamps 131

New submitter Kkloe writes: Wired is running a profile of a gadget called Signet, which is trying to bring postage stamps into the age of high technology. Quoting: "At its core, it is a digital stamp and an app. If you want to send a parcel, you'd simply stamp it with a device that uses a laser to etch it with your name and a unique identifying pattern. After that, the USPS would pick up your package; from there, the app would prompt you to provide the name of the person you're trying to reach." I'm curious whether such a finely-detailed etching can even survive a journey. How far can you expect it to travel before all the handling and sorting make the mark unreadable to the sorting machines in the delivery office? Then you'd have to worry the post office would mark it as a fraudulent stamp (as someone has to pay for the shipping in some way) and either return it or throw it away.
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The Future of Stamps

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    i can't remember the last time i mailed something. maybe once in 2012.

  • by neoritter ( 3021561 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @05:19PM (#48199291)

    Shipping companies already do similar things with bar codes etc. So to the question in the summary, yes it should be fine. To the general idea, why? What's wrong with a QR code or a bar code?

    • 1) This is prettier and cooler.

      2) Easier to use for one off jobs, where you have one letter. 3) They envision ending/greatly reducing the physical stamp program. This will piss off the collectors a lot.

      4) They get paid for it, rather than the company that makes the QR codes etc.

      Basically, I don't think it has enough advantages to catch on somewhere where they already have stamps. But ISIL might want it for their new country, I bet they want to replace Syria's and Iraq's old postal system.

      • I'm really surprised no one thought about adding peppermint flavoring to the glue of all those Christmas stamps. Guess that might never happen now.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        2) Easier to use for one off jobs, where you have one letter. 3) They envision ending/greatly reducing the physical stamp program. This will piss off the collectors a lot.

        The reason for the stamp is because the post office cannot control entry points into the system - i.e., they have "mailboxes" to which users of the system can deposit pre-paid mail. The stamp is the pre-paid part of it.

        To do so with FedEx or UPS, you either have equipment to generate the labels for you where you pay for it when you make t

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What's wrong? Nothing, except it's not their design, and they want to make ... *places pinkey finger in corner of mouth* one billion dollars from royalties.

      That's why it has to be their design.

    • yes, this is a solution in search of a problem.

  • Maybe it's just me, but I feel the future of stamps is going to be a world that doesn't use stamps. How much mail do you really send that you are still buying stamps? I realize lots of businesses still send things out usps, but they are probably printing their own postage at this point anyway and not using actual stamps.
    • Re:What future? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @05:28PM (#48199391) Journal

      There are still bills I pay with paper. (Some companies still charge for the "privilege" of paying online, which pisses me off even though the amount doesn't matter.)

      I occasionally deposit checks via mail. Even if I trusted my phone enough to put banking software on it (which would be a silly thing to do), that only works for some kinds of checks.

      Some companies respond to customer complaints via paper mail much better than they do via the net.

      Sometimes I send checks to family members who aren't technologically sophisticated enough for there to be another way.

      Maybe all of those reasons will disappear eventually, but I doubt that will be in my lifetime. It's also worth remembering that you can still send some mail anonymously - frankly, I'm surprised you still can, as there's nothing a totalitarian state hates more than anonymous communication.

      • I used to mail cheques to the utility companies and credit card companies and whatnot, but then I discovered that I can pay all of those bills at the bank down the street. They don't charge me anything for taking those payments, either, so it's definitely cheaper than paying for a stamp, an envelope, and a cheque. And it's right down the street so I can walk in, pay cash and get a stamped receipt on the spot.

        I'm sure someone is paying them for the service of taking my money and sending it on like that but

      • by mlts ( 1038732 )

        I have some bills which will get "lost" if they are not sent at least certified mail. Sent electronically, it isn't anywhere near as concrete proof [1] as a piece of physical mail sent with a signature trail.

        Paper complaints, especially legal work are hard to ignore. E-mail, even calls, there is no paper trail and can be hidden. However, a certified message either gets received or it gets refused. Either way, someone had to interact with the document in a provable way. Even now, our society isn't paper

      • There are still bills I pay with paper. (Some companies still charge for the "privilege" of paying online, which pisses me off even though the amount doesn't matter.)

        I occasionally deposit checks via mail. Even if I trusted my phone enough to put banking software on it (which would be a silly thing to do), that only works for some kinds of checks.

        Some companies respond to customer complaints via paper mail much better than they do via the net.

        Sometimes I send checks to family members who aren't technologically sophisticated enough for there to be another way.

        Maybe all of those reasons will disappear eventually, but I doubt that will be in my lifetime. It's also worth remembering that you can still send some mail anonymously - frankly, I'm surprised you still can, as there's nothing a totalitarian state hates more than anonymous communication.

        For Canadians, cheques by residents are so passé. Businesses, of course, use cheques as proof of payment.

        If you are doing consumer banking and If you do not take a special type of bank account, you are entitled to 3 cheques per month, and then whamo, around $7.00ea for the excess. So, we consumers have automated payment from accounts, or even online bill-payment options.

        So, keep a balance to cover the cheques, earn no interest, and pay to make payments.

        • How is it a good thing that you can only use 3 checks per month for free? Most banks in the US have automated checking and bill payment, and allow you to use as many checks as you like. You usually just have to pay $10 for a pack of 200.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      This. Actual stamps is mostly a consumer thing, I just checked our commercial postal service and they recommend a "stamping" machine if you send more than 40 letters/week where you charge it up like a prepaid cell phone, same thing for packages except there they normally print to labels they slap on the package. And for the big companies you get bulk pre-printed envelopes with logo that are collected at your place of business and charged to your corporate account, we have those at work. The potential for ab

    • by mendax ( 114116 )

      I doubt it, at least not anytime in the near future. Stamps do have some interesting and necessary purposes for existence.

      I write people in prisons. While some prisons and jails have e-mail systems in place through which you can write an inmate and, in some cases, the inmate can write back (Federal prisons being the best example of this) these are usually funded by a "tax" paid by the inmates in some way. For those inmates who don't want to use such services or cannot (California prisoners being one in t

      • Someone's been lying to you. Drugs, cell phones, alcohol, and tobacco are the top exchange items. I guess you haven't been following the news, or someone's been yanking your chain.
    • How much mail do you really send that you are still buying stamps?

      Outside of a dozen or two holiday cards, maybe three or four pieces a year.

      I realize lots of businesses still send things out usps, but they are probably printing their own postage at this point anyway and not using actual stamps.

      I've yet to see a solution suitable for home users.

    • You might use USPS if you don't want third parties to read your messages.

  • When I send a package from the post office here, they weigh and measure it, determine the price for the postage, and print a sticker with that amount on it. They slap the sticker on the package and that's all there is to it.

    I don't remember the last time I sent or received a package that had real stamps plastered on it. Letter mail sometime does, and letter mail that I send out always does since I purchase a roll of stamps once in a while for that purpose. But not packages.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @05:25PM (#48199353)
    What does this provide that a postage meter doesn't? He also seems to think the USPS should spend billions retooling how they sort mail.
    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      What does this provide that a postage meter doesn't?

      The ability to keep your mailing address when you move, similar to the way third party webmail services let you keep your e-mail address when you change ISPs, or the way VoIP services let you keep your phone number when you move, or the way DNS lets you keep your URLs the same when you change web hosts.

      FTFA:

      When Martin Cooper invented the cellphone at Motorola in 1971, his idea began with the simple insight that telephones were attached to places. They we

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        Why "stamp it with a device that uses a laser to etch it with your name and a unique identifying pattern". All it's doing is creating a mailing label, you can do that already.

        The idea of auto-forwarding to the address in the post office's database is kind of different; but I'm not sure what that adds to filling out a change of address form and sending it to your post office.

    • He also seems to think the USPS should spend billions retooling how they sort mail.

      I don't know if they should spend billions, but they should really institute some logic to detect and correct routing loops. Right now these are detected by humans. If there's one ZIP on the address and another zip in the metadata (due to data entry failure, or misaddressing by the sender) then you'll get a routing loop until a human notices. That's pathetic given that every package is scanned when is passes through a sort facility, and they really ought to know where it's going.

  • I'm not sure why we should invest much time moving "stamps" into the digital age. Does anyone expect the Post Office to even exist, ten years from now?

    No one sends physical letters anymore. Almost all of my bills can come electronically, directly to my bank. Doctors offices and medical clinics seem to be one of the few holdouts... and even they seem to be moving online now.

    • The article is about parcels.

      • Maybe you could actually read the article again:

        The envelope or package that’s been sitting there for days, unsent.

        The post office already allowed people to print up their own custom stamps for an extra fee. It bombed.

        And there's no way that anyone is going to buy a laser etcher when mailing things is becoming obsolete.

        The Canadian government has already told people that mailing payments will cease over the next few years [theguardian.pe.ca].

        Additionally, home delivery of the mail is being ended to most of the population. It's already stopped for 1/3 of the population, and the other 3rd

    • Just because you don't send physical objects anymore does not mean everyone else does not. The cynical part of me sort of thought this was going to be sponsored by the USPS, as another last ditch attempt to get people to mail more things, to stave off its eventual demise. While its true that the Postal Service is dwindling to store flyers and political ads in the digital age, I dread the idea of them shutting down, simply because when it comes right down to it, If i need to send something, they have the qu
      • Just because you don't send physical objects anymore does not mean everyone else does not.

        That's a straw man. I send physical objects several times a year. When I do, I use UPS or FedEx because the Postal Service sucks at it. My expectation that the USPS will die does not mean package delivery has to die with it.

        USPS's bread and butter has historically always been letters and bills. Nowadays that is rapidly drying up, so their bread and butter has become delivering advertisements to our houses. We don't really need to maintain a government funded agency for advertisement delivery.

        • Thats just it, we don't fund it. While it is mandated by the constitution to exist, and overseen to some degree by congress, which is why postage has barely crept up, because it is locked to the inflation rate, and can only be pushed beyond that with approval from a regulatory commission. So the postal service is required to fund itself. While congress has occasionally allotted certain funds towards the postal service for special situations (related to disabled and overseas voters mainly) It is meant to be
          • I cant FedEx *anything* for a dollar.

            Of course not. Thanks to the Private Express Statutes [wikipedia.org], FedEx can't legally deliver ordinary letters unless USPS postage is paid on top of its own delivery rate. The system is deliberately set up such that no one can compete effectively with the USPS.

            • While at the same time, by undercutting everyone by miles, the USPS is assured its eventual collapse. So I guess Postal Service Reform would be a decent platform to run for office on?
          • The post office is not being operated in the red because mail is cheap. It has to do with their outdated updated pension rules.

    • IDK how it is in the US but here in Poland the post is like an institution. Fe. if you have an invoice or legal paper you can send deliver it yourself, you can send it by private held company like TNT, UPS, whatever but only when you send it via Polish Post (national operator) it gets so called the power of postal stamp. Legally if you choose the right delivery type it is valid as delivery in court. Such postage is still deeply embodied in legal system and I think it has some merit. In Poland f.e. you could

      • You can fax legal documents and keep the fax header as proof of service.

        A quick search shows that the state of Utah allows alternate service by email or social media [utcourts.gov]. A judge allowed the FTC to serve notice via facebook [sdnyblog.com]. New York allowed email service in 2006, and Australia allows it [cnet.com], and anther New York case of service via facebook was discussed on slashdot last month [slashdot.org].

        The old ways are dying. Requiring someone to buy a laser device to burn "stamps" onto envelopes and packages won't work.

        • > You can fax legal documents (...) the state of Utah (...) New York allowed (...) Australia allows it [cnet.com], and anther New York [etc.]

          But you are you aware that lots of other countries than USA or Austrialia exist and such even tend to have precedent or non-precedent legal systems? I know that general tendency is to go to electronic means where possible but I am quite sure that there still are and still be situations in which the new/current ways are not possible and you need to keep the old syste

          • Requiring someone to buy a laser device to burn "stamps" onto envelopes and packages won't work.

            This I fully agree. The idea is so stupid I don't even know how it got here to Slashdot.

            You must be new here. (checks uid) Nope. Oh well, welcome to our new DICE overlords :-(

      • by mendax ( 114116 )

        if you have an invoice or legal paper you can send deliver it yourself, you can send it by private held company like TNT, UPS, whatever but only when you send it via Polish Post (national operator) it gets so called the power of postal stamp. Legally if you choose the right delivery type it is valid as delivery in court. Such postage is still deeply embodied in legal system and I think it has some merit.

        Exactly. In the U.S., many federal and state laws assume that the United States Postal Service will be t

  • Complete waste (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Russ1642 ( 1087959 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @05:33PM (#48199439)

    Why re-invent the printer just to stamp a package? All of the major shipping companies let you print out a shipping label already. As for the other stuff, such as having the shipping company look up an address, that can all be done with software provided there's enough incentive to develop it.

    • I think the idea is that people don't carry printers with them.

      Anything requiring a printer is a bit broke by design in the modern age.
    • Because... lasers are freaking cool. Postage etched with lasers. How long before a postal worker turns the lasers on everyone on the room?
      • This better not be a hand-held unit. I can only imagine children getting ahold of this thing and playing around with it. Burning out the retina of your eye, thus rendering partial or total loss of vision would be tragic! No, they need to be in the form factor as as automatic stapler. Just slide the corner of a letter in the notch and it's good to go.

  • Can you etch it in wax?

    I can envision a custom mark and a unique postage shipping ID.

  • So I'll need the Laser stamp thingy *and* a smartphone app just to send a letter? Ya, that's much better.

  • by g1powermac ( 812562 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @05:49PM (#48199543)
    Ok, for a bit of reference, I was a rural mail carrier for awhile. And from being a carrier and talking with fellow carriers after being one I can tell you people don't really send much first class mail anymore. The USPS is now basically converting into the last mile run carrier of packages, both originating from their system and both Fedex and UPS's systems. The local post office I've worked at has at times not been able to handle the sheer volume increase of packages. Now, if people want to ship packages, they can already print their own postage off their computers so this device does nothing for that (and there's plenty of bulk label creation systems for larger shippers which is what I do now). The other fairly large user of the USPS is advertisers using bulk mail rates and they won't use a device like this since they already have permits. So I see little use for this.
  • bulk mailers use franking machines which have internal counters that the post office uses to bill according to the number of times the machine has been used to issue a letter, and/or prepaid envelopes with printed postage, and for those who don't want or need that kind of expense, physical stamps that they use to apply the proper postage charge prior to dispatch. Also works for occasional posters.

    Why fix what ain't broke??

  • The Royal Mail in the UK has been selling stamps online for some years. Tell then the weight/size of your letter or parcel, pay the postage cost and you can print an address label with bar code. The only thing is you generally have to post it within a couple of days.
  • Me, I'm still trying to sell the item in the first place.

  • You can already print your postage at home, on any printer. So, they're adding an expensive but fancy way to print and some kind of nebulous destination locating service. Oh, and an App. I forgot, everything is brand new it you tie it to a smartphone app.
  • This is pure advertising for the design house. The concept is fanciful and relies on the wacky conceit that we all have packages sitting around the house that we'd like to mark with a personal identifier logo and send without even knowing where it's going to be sent, how much it'll cost to send it, when it'll get there. The design centers on this wooden laser device that is 0.000001% of the system, and I'll bet the vast majority of the work went into making the touchy-feely acoustic guitar paying videos tha

  • Let's create a brand new type of stamp and launch a taxpayer-funded initiative to upgrade every sorting machines. It'll only take a gazillion dollars, not be completed in any reasonable amount of time, and eventually abandoned.

  • Currently to send a letter I:

    1. Put a stamp on the corner.

    2. Write down the address where I want it to go.

    3. (Optional) put one of my return address labels on it.

    Their method

    1. Have one of their laser burners put a 'stamp' on the envelope.

    2. Pull up an app and scan my 'stamp'

    3. Tell it where to go (either through my contacts or by manually inputting it).

    I don't see how this is 'simpler'...

  • We don't need another 'stamp' (alreadying being done multiple ways) but the fears in this /. article are also unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of how the US Postal System operates. The stamp gets read at the start. Once it is into the system it is fine.

    • The Postal Service has discontinued the new Obama stamp, too many people were spitting on the wrong side.
  • The use case is sending a letter when you have a wifi connection is already handled. See: gmail.com for more info

  • There are four types of stamp uses and realizations mostly used in public. For adverts, they print a tag on the advert. For business letters with these little windows, they print it in the address field. For parcels you can print out a sheet and glue it in a parcel. And for the personal letter or postcard you mostly use lovely designed stamps. As I already have a printer, why shall I buy a device for stamps? And by the way I can even send an email to the post office and they will make a letter out of it inc

  • So are the postal workers sharks with lasers on their heads that burn stamps? Or do you get a tank with a shark with a laser on it's head to burn the stamps? I'm confused.
  • Millions of people preserve history beyond just postal history by collecting and categorizing postal stamps from all over the world. These new digital stamps are as horrible as postage meters, they destroy not just a past time for many, but also eradicate an incredible means of documenting and preserving history.

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