Intelligent Mail Barcode

Intelligent Mail Barcode

The Intelligent Mail Barcode is the next generation of USPS barcode technology used to sort and track letters.

Intelligent Mail barcode technology, among other things, combines the capabilities of the POSTNET barcode and the Planet Code barcode into one unique barcode.

Postmaster General John Potter announced that the US Postal Service will push back the date of implementation for the Intelligent Mail barcode.

In an advisory notice, Potter wrote that the decision to change the date was in response to public feedback. “Many of you told us that January 2009 was too soon,” he wrote. “We will propose a May 2009 implementation, concurrent with our next annual price change.”

IMB will be required in May 2011.

In 2009 the IMB was slated to replace Postnet and Postal alpha numeric encoding technique, or PLANET, bar codes on domestic mail.

This new bar code has been popularly promoted as a combination of the Postnet bar code and the PLANET bar code, able to route and track mail with a single bar code.

The IMB brings much more than a simple combination of codes. Using the IMB, mailers know if and when mail gets delivered. Mail that is redirected by the Postal Service is now easily identified. Mailers can request address changes service information in the bar code at a greatly reduced cost. Many aspects of the delivery tracking expectations that FedEx and UPS have created are now met by the Postal Service, but at a dramatically lower cost.

The IMB uses a bar code symbology that allows up to 31 digits of information in 65 bars of four different lengths and position. Compare this to the current Postnet bar code that contains 11 digits of data in 62 bars.

This new bar code does a lot more than track delivery times. Unlike current postal bar codes, the IMB is not simply a font. An encoder, a USPS computer program, is required to convert the numeric value to the new bar code. This adds some complexity to the process for mailing companies, and the mailing software vendors are currently looking to develop better solutions to work with the IMB.

As mailers adapt to this new technology, look for even more creative uses for the unique IMB bar code such as tracking mail within the plant or driving advanced production applications. Just as the Postnet bar code ushered in a new mailing era in the early '90s, you can expect the IMB to bring another level of intelligence, tracking and ACS into the mailing world.

Here is the official USPS Q&A for Intelligent Mail Barcode


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