8. Postage Technology Initiatives
Building on the security architecture put in place in the 1990s to correct revenue leakage from misuse of postage meters, Postage Technology Management (PTM) integrates technology advancements further for the purposes of cost savings, cost avoidance, revenue generation and mail security. PTM’s three-prong strategy to improve security of postage evidencing through the introduction of advanced technology required moving the industry to more secure metering devices, counterfeit countermeasures designed into the indicia and a comprehensive network of information systems for audit and control and reduction of manual processing. In addition to increased revenue protection, an outgrowth of the organization’s deliberate activities to migrate the postage metering industry to more secure technology continues to provide opportunity for introduction of new applications for secure postage evidencing technology.
a. Secure Metering Systems
The goal in this area is to move the industry to safer, more secure postage evidencing systems to safeguard against revenue loss due to tampering and misuse.
With the introduction of PC PostageTM products as a new product category for postage over the Internet, PTM raised baseline security expectations with the requirement of a tamper-resistant Postal Security Device (PSD) as the postage vault. A PSD incorporates computer chip technology that is programmed to shut down in the event that it is tampered with. The migration of metering technology from least secure to most secure follows the progression from manually set meters, to Computerized Meter Resetting System (CMRS) letter press meters, digital meters, digital Information Based Indicia (IBI) meters, to PC Postage% products. In addition, migration of manual set to remote set meters moved into Phase II. The migration to remote set meters means more secure meter technology as well as cost avoidance associated with manually setting meters.
The migration of manually set electronic meters began in February 2000 with the stop placement of any new manually set meters, and the actual withdrawal began in June 2001. PTM reported a 43 percent reduction in the manual reset meter population in 2000-2001. 59,000 manually set meters were withdrawn from service and 95,000 digital meters were installed into service. Two new postage meter models were introduced that combined the safest technology introduced for PC Postage, i.e., the PSD and IBI. Of the population of 95,000 new digital meters, 12,000 of these were the two newest and safest models.
b. Advanced Secure Postage Evidencing:
the Information Based Indicia
The Information Based Indicia (IBI) is part of the PTM security architecture and the objective to secure postage against counterfeit attack. The goal is to incorporate technology into the postage mark that makes it harder to counterfeit, that makes counterfeiting easier to detect, and that offers value beyond postage.
Unlike traditional postage meter indicia, each IBI is unique. IBI incorporates digital printing of indicia that includes human readable and machine readable (barcode) data containing, among other information, certain “security critical” data elements. The IBI also incorporates cryptographic services which digitally “sign” each indicium making it possible to verify its authenticity.
In addition, because it conveys digital data on the mail piece and has the capacity to encode additional information, the IBI can provide benefit beyond revenue security in two areas, including value-added services to customers and valuable data contribution to the Information Platform. In 2000-2001 the IBI has been incorporated into two new meter models, and Postal Service on-line products for secure postage evidencing. Further, moving into 2002, the IBI is recognized as a promising technology platform for extending “intelligence in mail.”
c. Centralized Data Management
PTM continues the enhancement of its centralized databases to track and manage products, customers and revenue associated with postage meter use. The goal is to move decentralized data and data processing to centralized data management to improve audit and control capability, transition as many manual processes to automated processing in order to achieve work hour savings, and improve customer service. Many of the initiatives undertaken to move to electronic transfer of funds not only serves to improve Postal Service data management and savings, but also provide improvements for customers because they eliminate any delay in use of their postage funds that may have been caused by manual processes.
The primary database systems include the Centralized Meter Licensing System, the Meter Accounting and Tracking System, and Computerized Meter Resetting System (CMRS). These systems are used to provide the data necessary to conduct full loop audit and review procedures as part of the all-encompassing security architecture for postage evidencing products.
Four particular accomplishments in 2001 include: 1) Secure CMRS Funds Transfer which introduced automated transfer of funds between CMRS meters resulting in approximately 9108 work hours eliminated by this task, 2) Manual Migration Process allowing transfer of funds from manually set meters to CMRS meters and saving approximately 2609 work hours eliminated by this task, 3) Electronic Change of Accountable Post Office eliminating the need to bring a meter into a post office for withdrawal and reinstall, resulting in elimination of 630 work hours, and 4) New Meter Examination Schedule eliminating the need for certain meter examinations and potentially eliminating 392,000 work hours. Further, withdrawing 59,000 manually set meters would eliminate manual settings required for 118,000 work hours.