The US Postal Service has a talking blue mailbox

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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:

In the 1970's, there were about 400,000 of these iconic blue mailboxes across the US, but the Postal Service started culling underused boxes in 2002. Mailboxes that get less than 25 pieces of mail each day are marked for removal, and the public has 30 days to comment on the removal before the USPS acts on it. This is part of a larger cost-cutting effort that includes consolidation of post offices and a reduction in the number of hours for low-traffic offices.

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.

“The Consumer Electronics Show
allows us to meet with customers
from across the globe to show
them how the Postal Service is
leveraging technology and our
infrastructure to better meet
their needs,”
Cliff Rucker, USPS VP of Sales

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.

For information on how Barracuda can help you secure your IoT devices and Machine-to-Machine communications, visit our corporate site here.

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