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Universal Alphanumeric Postal Code Proposed 595

Posted by simoniker
from the i-live-at-ahx69bz3l5-electric-avenue dept.
Meshach writes "An article in the Globe and Mail is discussing a possible change to the way postal codes are assigned over the world. NAC Geographic Products will be using Microsoft's MapPoint to power their Mobile Location-Based Services Network, which could change all postal codes in the world to a simpler, more universal format."
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Universal Alphanumeric Postal Code Proposed

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  • Ohhh no, e-mail's problems have now hit home.

    It will now be possible to have your snail mail crash on you. Imagine opening up your mailbox and getting a BSOD. And naturally Microsoft will sell your snail address to the spammers, so you'll get about 50 junk mails per day. And a robotic Spam Assassin is a lot more expensive than its free software counterpart. Who thought this was a good idea anyway - Bill Gates, or maybe some of the other spammers?

    • by Brett Johnson (649584) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:47PM (#6099698)
      Expect Microsoft to add hooks into your Address Book (so you can easily print envelopes with the correct zip code, of course). Then the next Outlook Macro virus with send junk paper mail to everyone in your address book. Once it is also integrated with eStamp, all hell will break loose. Your postal carrier will shoot you when he/she finds 1.3 million outgoing letters in your mailbox.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:36PM (#6099555) Homepage Journal
    Phoo. Why not just use one of the GPS systems. The problem with oversimplifying like this (as idealists tend to do) is they rarely reflect the reality of actual routing, like, "Gee, it's only 12 miles 'as the crow flies'", yet the route in question winds all over the place.

    If they really wanted to simplify postal coding/addressing they'd do something first about these damn addresses for people in South Korea, and a few other countries, which are like a whole paragraph long! Ever have to fill out those little customs forms? Yeah, you know how fun that can be.

    Idealists are more trouble to logistics than would be required to just take them out back and drown them it a bucket of water.

    "Hey, isn't that a quarter in that bucket?"

    Besides, strong initial resistance to this plan, there's probably some disingenuous patent and royalty speculation riding on this.

    • If they really wanted to simplify postal coding/addressing they'd do something first about these damn addresses for people in South Korea, and a few other countries, which are like a whole paragraph long! Ever have to fill out those little customs forms? Yeah, you know how fun that can be.

      Japan's addresses are easy enough to write, but hard as hell to find if you don't know the area. It's annoying as all hell, but from a western mind just doesn't make much sense.

      I would prefer an address that is lat/lon
    • by FreeLinux (555387) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:54PM (#6099811)
      Why not just use one of the GPS systems. The problem with oversimplifying like this (as idealists tend to do) is they rarely reflect the reality of actual routing, like, "Gee, it's only 12 miles 'as the crow flies'", yet the route in question winds all over the place.

      The real answer is that GPS wouldn't make any money for NAC Geographic Products, whereas this proprietary system would, through licensing to various governments around the world.

      But, the fact of the matter is that the U.S. Postal Service likes its system just fine and will not change it to someone elses liking. Kinda like the metric system. Even if the new system is better. The same is true for the Royal Mail. We already saw how quick England was to jump on the EC bandwagon and adopt the Euro. Indeed far too many countries will be unwilling to change for this system to go global.

      I'd have to sayto NAC Geographic Products; nice try but, no money for you.
      • by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:48PM (#6100900)
        "But, the fact of the matter is that the U.S. Postal Service likes its system just fine and will not change it to someone elses liking. Kinda like the metric system."

        Metric is a bad analogy. The USPS has no reason to change to suit somebody else because they are the 500 lb. gorilla that literally moves half the world's letter mail. When you're that big, everybody else conforms to you.

        (IIRC, the USPS is already starting to implement ZIP+4 codes for outbound international mail to speed up sorting in-country.)

        "Even if the new system is better."

        How exactly would it be better? And would it be better enough to overhaul all those OCR and barcode readers the USPS uses to sort the mail already? They already seem pretty efficient when it comes to drawing zone maps, what good could possibly come from changing their names?

        So far, the only reason I see to sign on to this is the Ferret Effect. "It's new and shiney!"

        "The same is true for the Royal Mail."

        Aren't they out of business yet, what with their deregulation efforts?
    • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:15PM (#6100045) Homepage
      But why should you have to specify the routing as part of the address? Surely it's better just to say _where_ the letter should go to and let the postal system work out _how_. Like the change from UUCP decvax!host1!host2!user email addresses to the Internet style which specifies a destination host and lets the network (and MX records) do the routing.

      My objection to this plan is why invent some new alphanumeric coding? Why not just use latitude and longitude?
  • Complex Codes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by krisp (59093) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:36PM (#6099559) Homepage
    For example, NAC Geographic Products' address in Toronto would be 8CNB5 Q8Z4R.

    Try remembering that one. I'm happy with five numbers. Atleast I can make some sort of memory device of that.
    • by UCRowerG (523510) <UCRowerG@yaho o . c om> on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:42PM (#6099645) Homepage Journal
      The article claims that these will be universal codes for all over the world, but what about for countries that don't use the standard western alphabet?

      download and install the western font from microsoft i suppose.

      • The article claims that these will be universal codes for all over the world, but what about for countries that don't use the standard western alphabet?

        Just so you know, even if they don't use the standard western alphabet (Let's actually call it "Latin" as that's what it is) they still have use of it. I've yet to see a computer that can't produce latin characters.

        Not to sound cynical here, but are you an American hell-bent on being non-Americanized?
      • by cgenman (325138) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#6099966) Homepage
        The article claims that these will be universal codes for all over the world, but what about for countries that don't use the standard western alphabet?

        Isn't that what unicode is for? And what could be more simple than remembering the bit-equivalent of unicode kanji?
    • It ain't five numbers. It's one or more lines of street address, plus city and state.

      In my opinion, something like this is long overdue. It is a great complement to the OTHER obvious improvement to the mail system - which is to allow people to register codes for specific people, companies, and offices, so that even if the person moves the "address" remains the same. Simple, doesn't say where you live, and so forth. In an ideal world you could use it for phone and email too. Just link that code to the
    • by IvyMike (178408) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:08PM (#6099977)

      For example, NAC Geographic Products' address in Toronto would be 8CNB5 Q8Z4R.

      Ecnbs Qesar?

      Sorry. I keep trying to decode that address code as 'leet speak. :)

      • by cookd (72933)
        A friend of mine got a new phone number. For the longest time, I wondered why her new phone number struck me as strange. Finally, I decided to stop and figure it out.

        XXX-1337

        It took a while since the situation had nothing to do with computers, but I finally realized that some part of my mind was trying to read it as "LEET".
  • by Marx_Mrvelous (532372) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:37PM (#6099577) Homepage
    With Microsoft in control of the system, Finland will mysteriously disappear from all the routing systems...
  • GPS (Score:4, Informative)

    by charlieo88 (658362) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:38PM (#6099586)
    Why new postal codes at all? With cheap GPS, why not just start using longitude and latitude?
    • Re:GPS (Score:5, Informative)

      by ssdairy (550193) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:53PM (#6099791)
      ...why not just start using longitude and latitude?
      Good idea. My GPS receiver has a display mode called MGRS (Military Grid Reference System) [ucsb.edu], which maps (with some calculation) to latitude and longitude.
      Example MGRS coordinates:

      16 T CP 12345 67890
      where:
      • 16 = a 6-degree slice of longitude
      • T = a 8-degree slice of latitude
      • CP = letters indicating a 100 km x 100 km square inside the slices listed above
      • 12345 = "easting" in meters from the west edge of the square
      • 67890 = "northing" in meters from the south edge of the square
      Actually kind of nice -- the military uses maps with the squares and easting/northing values pre-printed. Also really nice for quick rough calculations of distance and bearing. If someone wants to use an alphanumeric code representing geographic location, might as well use one that's (1) already standardized and (2) usable by a human.
    • Re:GPS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by harrkev (623093) <<kfmsd> <at> <harrelsonfamily.org>> on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:03PM (#6099922) Homepage
      Why new postal codes at all? With cheap GPS, why not just start using longitude and latitude?


      It gets better!

      Let's say that you wanted to narrow things down to approximately 1-mile. 1-mile is approx 1 minute (1/60 of one degree) of longitude.

      360 degrees * 60 minutes = 21600 different minutes on the face of the earth.

      26 letters plus 10 numbers = 36! Subtract "confusables" (I, O, S, Z) -- 32 possible characters! 32^3 = 32768! The number of character combinations is greater than the number of minutes in one direction. It is a simple math exercise to create a base-32 numbering system and to enumerate all possible minute/second combinations.

      Therefore, three characters can represent your latitude to the nearest mile (give or take), and another three characters for your longitude! A new universal six-digit zip code!

      And all of this in 5 minutes with a simple calculator! What is the big deal? Devising a system such as this is trivial. Getting people to use it is the hard part.
  • by Giant Ape Skeleton (638834) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:38PM (#6099587) Homepage
    But I heard they were considering using l33t5p34k.

    Which means that as a New Jersey resident, my postal code would be:

    5h1+h0l3

  • by grub (11606)

    Considering the problems they've had with IPv4 and the space, I hope they go right to Postal v6 for assigning their codes.
  • Nice thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greechneb (574646) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:39PM (#6099593) Homepage Journal
    The proposed 10-digit universal address could be used for both homes and businesses. Slightly longer than Canada's six-digit alphanumeric postal code, it would narrow down addresses more accurately. For example, NAC Geographic Products' address in Toronto would be 8CNB5 Q8Z4R.

    Nice thought... but its like the metric system. Who will want to change what they have known for many a lifetime.

    I know my 60 year old dad who does carpentry will never learn the metric system, even though it would be easier, why would he, or the millions like him want to learn a new addressing scheme?

    • Re:Nice thought (Score:5, Insightful)

      by illusion_2K (187951) <slashdotNO@SPAMdissolve.ca> on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:46PM (#6099684) Homepage
      Because not everyone lives in the US. You do know that outside of the US, pretty much everyone has accepted the metric system as standard I hope. Sure, many people (including myself) still use imperial measurements for many things, but on the whole metric is where its at.

      The point here is this would provide a fix to the issue of standardized postal codes in the long term. Just because it's not status-quo doesn't mean it isn't a good idea.
      • I didn't say it was a bad idea...

        I'd much rather be using the metric system - I hate having to do all the conversions with a pencil and paper instead of just moving a decimal point.

        I'm just saying there will be a lot of people who raise a fuss over it. We had a hard enough time when our county changed from the rural route system to actually having road names. That was over 5 years ago, and many people still will not use the new addresses, causing more work for the post office.
    • Re:Nice thought (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NerveGas (168686)

      Your statement is quite ironic, seeing as how the carpentry that you mentioned is one of the very, very few areas where fractional measurement DOES have some strong merits over metric. : )

      steve
    • Re:Nice thought (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shenkerian (577120)
      That's not really a reasonable comparison. Pretty much every time I send a letter, I have to look up the zip/postal code. I don't particularly care whether I have to write down "10011" (US) or "V3H 4Z6" (Canada) or whatever system they come up with, because I'll immediately forget it. On the other hand, your father remembers from childhood what an inch roughly is, so he's less inclined to memorize another system.
    • With 10 characters, it can represent a specific area measuring one square metre. . . . For example, NAC Geographic Products' address in Toronto would be 8CNB5 Q8Z4R.

      Is it just me, or does that look like part of a Microsoft product key?

      Sure, using GPS for location is nicer, but this provides a much more compressed form of basically the same data. Just think, now you can be stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the south Pacific and still get your mail.

    • Actually, zip codes are still kinda new. They started when your dad was 20: July 1st, 1963 [usps.com], and not mandatory for 2nd & 3rd class mailers until 4 years later. So, it's been in use for only 40 of the post office's 228 years of existence.

      Not to nitpick, but how could someone know something for "many a lifetime"? It's a cool idea, and I'd love to be able to implement it!

  • Microsoft announces that there are now 4.5 billion MSN PassPort accounts, making it the worlds chosen identity provider!
  • It's the war of the l33t-5cript kidd13s, and I fear they may be winning.

    The only complaints I've seen about alphanumeric codes have been about the difficulty remembering them: I can't say they're much worse than US zip codes.

  • Simple? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hendridm (302246) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:39PM (#6099602) Homepage

    From the poster:

    which could change all postal codes in the world to a simpler, more universal format

    From the article:

    For example, NAC Geographic Products' address in Toronto would be 8CNB5 Q8Z4R.

    Um, is that encrypted? Simpler than what? An IPv6 address?

    The NAC universal addressing technique not only makes for easier and more efficient delivery of mail, geography specialists can use it for making maps of specific areas, Mr. Shen said.

    Oh, simpler for everyone except us those who aren't in the postal and geographic industries.

  • by Dick Click (166230) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:39PM (#6099604)
    I suppose that will mean Santa Claus' Postal Code will change from the current form:

    H0H 0H0

    And thats too bad :(
  • by mgs1000 (583340) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:40PM (#6099605) Journal
    Is there something wrong with the current system? Why not let individual countries decide how they want to have their addresses represented?
    • You have obviously never tried to design a database that holds address info for individuals in many countries or designed dynamic reports to print those addresses. Dealing with just the US and Canada is hard. When you include Europe it gets ugly. The system isn't even stanrd within the US. Could someone please explain Utah's postal address system? I see addresses like "288 N 1460 W" all the time.

      -B
  • sweet, with any luck they can add the information to my VeriChip(TM) [adsx.com]!

    Mike
  • We know that this won't be a universal standard unless we get the center of the universe to change too [the USA].

    If they didn't have their wonky 5 OR 9 digit Zip code system and joined the rest of the Commonwealth, and who knows what other countries then we would have a nice system.
  • by gpinzone (531794) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:41PM (#6099626) Homepage Journal
    For example, NAC Geographic Products' address in Toronto would be 8CNB5 Q8Z4R.

    Granted, this is only one more digit than a "zip+4" here in the USA, but mixing letters in there is going to be a disaster for the postal service. Their OCR has a hard enough time with decoding zip codes. Now they have to figure out the difference between a Q and a zero. I hope this system is smart enough NOT to implement "O," "S," and "Z" as letters.

    Besides, most mail is local. It's like dialing the country code and area code just to order a pizza.
  • Yeah, that'll work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebh (116526) * <ebh-slashdot@h y p e r r e a l . o rg> on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:41PM (#6099628) Journal
    Simplification: Trinity College moves from Dublin 2 to Dublin 1BF45S8I0A.

    Precision: Swap two digits and your letter to Grandma ends up Beyond Rangoon.

    Availability: MS owns the postal system. Can't wait to see the EULA ("By licking this stamp...").
    • by Alan Shutko (5101) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:49PM (#6099729) Homepage
      Precision: Swap two digits and your letter to Grandma ends up Beyond Rangoon.

      That's a serious problem, since as the article mentioned, they want to use these codes to replace addresses, instead of adding them on.

      ZIP codes in the US aid sorting (because they are based on carrier routes instead of simple geographic area) and provide redundancy in the address, so if you mess up something in the address or zip code, there's enough info for a human to correct it. If people switched to using only the new code, that redundancy goes away.
  • thank god! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pioneer (71789)
    thank god.... from a developer standpoint having to have 'n' different database table entries for all the countries you support is a pain in the ass...

  • by Jonsey (593310) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:42PM (#6099636) Journal
    I can't wait for Universal Location Codes v6.

    With 1.8e4806 possible locations, it will be worth everyone memorizing a simple 2Meg file.
  • by lightspawn (155347) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:42PM (#6099641) Homepage
    Some of the software we have now is too stubborn to let you enter anything else than a 5-digit zip code.

    Somebody will have to convert all these fields to normal strings...

    (though I do hope whatever system is chosen won't make use of both "0" and "O", or both "1" and "l" - let's 1earn something from 0ur mistakes).

  • by zptdooda (28851) <deanpjm@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:42PM (#6099644) Journal
    With 10 characters, it can represent a specific area measuring one square metre. The proposed 10-digit universal address could be used for both homes and businesses.

    I don't even like people knowing what side of a street I'm on from my current postal code.

  • mappoint.com (Score:3, Interesting)

    by presearch (214913) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:43PM (#6099647)
    mappoint.com?

    I just tried it with my address and got this:

    - Maps & Directions
    You have reached a page that is experiencing problems or a location where a page does not exist.
    Try again later or visit our home page at maps.msn.com or maps.msn.co.uk

    Great choice in location service providers.
    Microsoft rules.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:43PM (#6099651)
    Stop at #9 IRQL_NOT_GREATER_OR_EQUAL Lane. Look for the blue mailbox.
  • E Prefix (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigpat (158134) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:43PM (#6099655)
    Let's not forget to use an "E" prefix, so that when we move to Mars or the Moon, then we can start using "M" and... oh... wait a second.
  • Lookee! Another slam dunk government licencee for a Microsoft product ("With Microsoft's data engine behind it"). This could even translate into private sector sales so the masses will know to put "8CNB5 Q8Z4R" on an envelope instead of Address/Street/City. We should know better than to let MS have a hand in a "standard". We will all pay throught the nose for this someday.
  • ..it didn't effect during the early 90's.

    Beverly Hills 8BHB5 D8Z4R (90210) doesn't have the same ring to it.
  • Hmm, maybe... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FroMan (111520) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:45PM (#6099680) Homepage Journal
    Based on latitude and longitude, the NAC system can represent an area the size of a province using two alphanumeric characters. A "universal address" with six characters will narrow down a search to an area measuring one square kilometre. With 10 characters, it can represent a specific area measuring one square metre.

    Wow, they want to reinvent latitude/longitude (sp?).

    I have an idea, lets make this round thing and poke another round hole in the center. Then take this stick and put it through the hole. We'll call it a wheel.

    Anyone with a globe can understand lat/long, why not fly with that if you think country codes and addresses don't work well enough. No sense in reinventing the wheel here.

  • Somehow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by johnnick (188363) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:47PM (#6099689)
    Having Microsoft power an address system that would let the BSA, RIAA, MPAA (or others) pinpoint the computer with the "unauthorized" copies of software, MP3s or DVDs on it does not make me feel comfortable.

    Can you imagine the chip that has a GPS receiver and that can translate into this adressing system?

    CHIP: "Dear BSA - Computer Serial Number 123456789 has the following software ...., and is located at coordinates 7XCD5 3RE66."

    "Dear Ms. Rosen - Computer Serial Number 123456789 has the following MP3s ...., and is located at coordinates 7XCD5 3RE66."

    Etc.

    John
  • ...if this was implemented on a large scale before IPv6 had universal acceptance ;-)
  • ...its called a 10 figure grid reference, and is accurate down to square meter.
  • Rubbish. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:47PM (#6099697)
    The purpose of a postal code is to provide an encoding system that allows the postal distribution network to route mail first between hubs, then down to a local sorting office, and finally into a postman's walk number.

    The purpose is not to locate point X on a sphere, we already have a perfectly adequate global coordinate system for that.
  • the numbers will correspond to your own memory address within the matrix.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:50PM (#6099743)
    1 - Will the zipcode format change every odd years each time M$ feels like doing an upgrade ? with the current "non-universal" postal system, there are people who get mails and postcards delivered sometimes decades after they've been sent. Will posters senders get "can't resolve address" return mails if their postcards isn't delivered in time ?

    2 - How much dya bet you'd have to use those longish cryptic zipcodes as registration keys in future Microsoft products ?
  • Check Bit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by marklyon (251926) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:50PM (#6099748) Homepage
    I'm thinking there is going to need to be a verification digit in there as well.

    It'd be quite easy for me to accidentally get an invalid character in there, and without a quick way to verify the authenticity of the string, it's likely there will be a lot of misrouted shipments.

    And removing any letters that have similar sounds to other letters would be a good idea. And o, so it's not confused with 0.
  • What with something like 70% of the surface of the planet being covered with water, won't this make for a lot of wasted address space?.

    And how many packages will end up being delivered to watery oblivion because someone missed 1 character in a 10 character universal address code?

    And what happens when the USPS, UPS, and FedEx all BSOD?

  • Stupid Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EisPick (29965) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:52PM (#6099776)
    This will never get adopted, since it is both unworkable and unnecessary.

    It's unworkable, because, in the case of U.S. Zip Codes, the current codes are tied to post offices and carrier routes, which don't necessarily subdivide neatly into equally-sized geographic areas. Tying postal codes to arbitrary geographic regions would be a step backwards.

    But it's also unnecessary. Why force each postal system to adopt a uniform coding scheme? Why not let them keep their coding schemes and append a country code to the front.

    This works for phone numbers: Each national phone system need not have the same number of digits in their phone numbers. They simply need a unique country code.
  • Universal . . . ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vinnie_333 (575483) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:53PM (#6099782)
    . . . or global? Are we sending letters to Alpha Centauri now?
  • The DMV? Sounds pretty silly to me. With electronic bill paying and e-mail, I figure in another year or two I'm going to rip my mailbox out of the ground and be done with it. When they change zip codes in relatively small areas to add a post office, it's a nightmare for all the businesses and individuals that have to inform all their contacts, re-print stationery, new signage... imaging the cost involved in doing it on a global scale. You could probably feed a small third-world country for a year on what i
  • Uh-oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by pmz (462998) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:55PM (#6099828) Homepage
    ...could change all postal codes in the world to a simpler, more universal format.

    What's that sound?

    It's the sound of millions of database application programmers screaming in agony.

    The Normalization Monkey says, "Who's laughing now! Bwahahaha!"
  • "This letter can only be opened in Microsoft Windows-enabled homes"

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday June 02, 2003 @04:57PM (#6099850)
    Based on latitude and longitude, the NAC system can represent an area the size of a province using two alphanumeric characters.

    That's a bummer for gypsies. Maybe there should be a service equivalent to dyndns for them, so they can upgrade their own postcodes themselves on the move ?

  • by wfrp01 (82831) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:00PM (#6099896) Journal
    Before we get completely bogged down by the ever-increasing number of often conflicting "standards", we need to adopt a "Standard Standard". That is to say, a standard which standardizes the standardization of standards. The first self-referential standard in this meta standard must say, of course, that "Standard Standard" is the standard standard standard. Anyone who implements this standard standard will immediately realize huge profits corresponding to the savings accrued by eliminating the standard duplication of standards which has become the standard.
  • by bogasity (517035) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:05PM (#6099945)
    Since 70% of the postal codes will be in the middle of the ocean, I can't wait to send out snail mail to random addresses. "Return to sender: no creature with opposable thumbs was available to sign for delivery. Try back in 3 billion years."
  • by skurken (58262) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:06PM (#6099958)
    People don't like codes. We like logical names. Few surf the net using IP numbers, most use litteral urls. If I write a letter, I want to be able to figure out the adress from what I know of the recipient.

    The postal office on the other hand, would probably go for this as it would reduce the time and cost to handle a letter or a package. Even if it is by a second/letter, it will make a big difference. However, unless they seriously reduce the postage, I'm never gona spend time looking up weird codes, they'll have to do that themselves.

    Now, all this is very interesting, but personally, I do hope that snailmail will go away and be (for most things) replaced by electronic mail, which is faster, cheaper, healthier for the environment and, used correctly, more secure too.
  • Full address? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by syphax (189065) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:09PM (#6099989) Journal
    The last paragraph alludes to this scheme, with its 1 meter resolution, completely replacing a mailing address. But how would it handle PO Boxes, which can have a density of > 1 per sq. meter? Or how about a suite in an office building (where you might want the address to be a mail room, not your office's front door)?

    Otherwise, sounds like a clever idea that I'm pretty sure will never take off, for reasons of varying 'legitimacy' (perhaps too hard to remember/resistance to change/the mark of the beast crowd).
  • about damn time! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BigBir3d (454486) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:10PM (#6099999) Journal
    How about the same for phone numbers also?

    Anyone else like the idea of permanent (more or less) phone numbers that follow you no matter where you live? Some talk of doing that in the US to cut down on the quantity of phone numbers that are kept out of rotation everytime somebody moves and gets a replacement phone number.
  • by AchilleTalon (540925) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:15PM (#6100038) Homepage
    for this guy showing at this Guiness Award TV show how he has successfully memorized almost every zip code in US with the location it actually pointed to... ;-(

    How would you feel becoming obsolete?

  • by PhoenixOne (674466) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:19PM (#6100084)
    I move around a lot. My dream would be to have a unique post code for each person. The post office could keep this number in a database and, if anybody wanted to reach you, they would just have to write your name and number and it would be sent to your current address. I would even pay to have this happen. I'm just tired of filling out forms and having people send me stuff at addresses that I haven't lived in for years...
    • This idea is nice, but it would require the complete computerization of all mail handling--something that I'm not sure is currently realistic.

      I work as a package sorter for UPS, and much of our sorting is broken down by zip code (although some is done by state or country). We sort by geographic areas, so that we can put the packages on a truck heading to that particular area. Zip codes are loosely based on geography and are therefore very useful for sorting.

      Unique/portable postal codes would have no basis

  • by morcheeba (260908) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:25PM (#6100128) Journal
    According to the article, each zip code will cover about 1 square km. This is almost useless
    in the world's densest cities [demographia.com]. 30,000 - 80,000 people/km^2 is quite common - New york's lower east side had 170k/km^2 in 1905; Cairo peak at 109k/km^2, and Hong Kong had almost 2 million people per square kilometer*!!

    Hopefully, the system will be divisional based on local population density -- like zip codes are now . But if it is, then it will be neither simple (no GPS/zip translation), or it will be of variable length, and/or it will change over time as areas get denser and need redivision (like phone area codes)

    * ok, that was a special case of 50k people living in a 0.03km^2 walled city.
  • by weave (48069) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:36PM (#6100237) Journal
    I can't believe no one has thought why this is doomed to fail. Not invented here? Won't be used here. Same for that silly French metric system.
  • by LostCluster (625375) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:36PM (#6100238)
    If we always adopted new ways of doing things we wouldn't be typing at QWERTY-style keyboards anymore. Afterall, QWERTY was designed to slow down too-fast typists on a typewriter, none of us have to worry about hammers jamming on our computers. But the costs and annoyance of having to disrupt QWERTY's installed base is enough to justify not replacing the existing standard. Just because they built this doesn't mean anybody's gonna come.

    What they have completely forgotten is that the current ZIP code system does not represent the actual lattitude/logitude position of the city or town, but instead the main routing office that the letter needs to get to, and then the sub-office it should be routed to from there to reach the route that this letter needs to be on. The +4 extention tells in which route it needs to be placed, and where the postman encounters the address within that route... Any relationship between ZIP Codes and GPS coordinates are purely coinsidental, and the numbers might seem completely random to an outsider, but it makes perfect since to the people who run the postal system. They've got no reason to break their already set up system to go to this... the ZIP code is more useful to them.

    Come on... all NAC has really invented here is a base-36 expression of the same latitude and longitude numbers that we've been measuring in degrees, hours, minutes, and seconds, and they've come to the stunning conclusion that their system specifies the same location in fewer characters... duh. No stunning breakthrough here, just marketing hype.

    1. Propose new addressing scheme.
    2. ??????
    3. Profit!
  • by 4of12 (97621) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:45PM (#6100878) Homepage Journal

    Like the other posters, I'm thinking, why use some proprietary system instead of universally-recognized latitude and longitude coordinates (with maybe an elevation, too)?

    But I'm thinking that latitude and longitude might not be the most efficient way to tesselate the surface of a sphere. Think of all the useless precision you'll waste near the poles where nobody lives - the lattitude coordinates kept to within one second of arc or better will, near the poles, come down to microns of accuracy just to compensate for the need for azimuthal location precision of a meter or so near the Earth's equator.

    Isn't there some way to divide the surface up like the patches on a football/soccerball/volleyball that would enable less waste of precision?

    [Think of descending a graph where the assumed root node is the whole earth's surface and the major patches might be the pentagonal regions that form a dodecahedron, the next node some way of subdividing each pentagon further, etc.]

  • by 73939133 (676561) on Monday June 02, 2003 @06:57PM (#6100976)
    I think it would be sufficient if countries could adopt a common address format; what goes into it is less important. This could look like:
    John Smith
    country specific
    country specific
    US-CA-94111
    Johann Schmidt
    country specific
    country specific
    DE-11101B
    Haruo Tanaka
    country specific
    country specific
    JP-999X763
    That is, the ZIP code is always at the bottom, and it begins with the two letter ISO country identifier. The stuff after the dash is country specific.

    That way, each country can keep whatever codes they are using and that work for their local setup, but postal sorting equipment can be standardized.

    GPS-based ZIP-codes, on the other hand, seem pretty pointless. If you really want to get a ZIP code from a location, a web site can translate GPS addresses into zip codes if you like.
  • by btempleton (149110) on Monday June 02, 2003 @07:33PM (#6101268) Homepage
    A good system would have the following criteria:

    a) It would avoid OCR errors and verbal transcription errors by not using any two alphanums that look or sound alike. So yes, B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V all mean the same thing (sound-alike), as do 0 and O, 1 and L, 5 and S and so on. Yes, that makes the strings a lot longer

    b) Instead of trying to code GPS into this space, sell aliases. Let me pick any alias that maps to my address, and have companies escrow the mapping from them to GPS or street address. My address should be "Brad's House Here" or something like that.

    c) When doing the above, each name must have characters added to it which perform an ECC function, so you can detect and correct any transposition or character totally wrong. For some that will mean they pick a nice string and add something random to it. Clever people will find words that meet the ECC test.

    d) This way, if I move, my postal address stays the same. And I can register for a global do not mail list.
  • by Mr_Icon (124425) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @07:46PM (#6101352) Homepage

    John Doe
    15 Schlotzky Blvd
    Mudville, AZ 12345
    USA
    Earth, Sol, Milky Way

    Now THIS is universal. :) This shoud work for a while, until we have to start specifying which of the universes we really mean. Then, I guess, we'd have to add another line:
    The-One-With-The-Evil-Spock

  • Poor kids... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cookd (72933) <douglascook@juno.cCOLAom minus caffeine> on Monday June 02, 2003 @09:59PM (#6102132) Journal
    Pity the areas that get assigned the lousy addresses. "My address is ISUCK ROCKS." This could lead to instant craziness in real estate.

    "LINUX SUCKS" -- Small plot of land in western Oklahoma purchased by an unknown company in Redmond.

    "LINUX RULEZ" -- Nearby plot of land purchased by a short guy in a tuxedo.
  • In the UK... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bazzargh (39195) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:39AM (#6103887)
    The postcode doesn't describe a geographic location so much as a route. The bits of the postcode variously describe the main sorting office, the postal area the mail should go to - which is effectively a mail van route - and then the final part of the postcode sorts in the order that a postman would walk it (piecewise, anyway). Individual postcodes here describe only a handful of premises, unlike in the states where I understand its more like 50 on average.

    By doing it this way it becomes possible to sort mail efficiently for delivery using just the postcode.

    Ignoring for the moment that UK GIS systems also use other references (UPRN, TOID, PAF ref, grid ref) it would seem that retooling for this new system is all cost and no benefit - except to the company selling that data.

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