CES 2017 is live in Las Vegas, and in addition to the usual tech like wearables, TVs, printers, cars, etc., there is one innovation we weren't expecting to see: The talking blue mailbox.
If you reside in or have visited the US, you've likely seen one of these public mail collection boxes. These collection boxes are so important to the USPS and their customers that there are online maps specifically designed to find the blue mailbox nearest your specified location:
Your common blue collection box could get ‘smarter' in the future, if the demo at CES 2017 is any indication. According to GeekWire, the USPS talking mailbox can weigh your packages, give you information on nearby locations, and more.
I'm not sure whether the talking mailbox can improve service or cut costs for USPS, but I am sure that smart blue mailboxes can add to a sprawl of smart devices that aren't secured properly. How will these devices be firewalled? How will they connect to the backend? How will the software be updated? What could a ‘hacked' mailbox do for a criminal? DDoS operations? Data Mining?The Internet of Things is already an insecure beast, and adding thousands of talking mailboxes to the US infrastructure could make things worse. However, USPS PR rep Darleen Reid (LinkedIn) said that the talking mailbox isn't going to be out in the public anytime soon. This leads me to believe that perhaps it was just a booth prop as part of the ongoing B2B marketing strategy that USPS employs at CES every year. From the USPS blog post on CES 2016:
Among the 3,600 vendors participating in Las Vegas this year, USPS stepped up to the excitement, increasing the odds that the newest and most desired tech devices will be advertised, shipped, and delivered by none other than the U.S. Postal Service.
If that's all it is, the USPS talking blue mailbox is already a hit.
For more on the history of public collection boxes, including some cool pictures, see this post on Postlandia.
Christine Barry is Senior Chief Blogger and Social Media Manager at Barracuda. In this role, she helps bring Barracuda stories to life and facilitate communication between the public and Barracuda internal teams. Prior to joining Barracuda, Christine was a field engineer and project manager for K12 and SMB clients for over 15 years. She holds several technology credentials, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master of Business Administration. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.