Digital eyewear such as Google Glass is far from cheap, but the devices might help the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service save millions of dollars each year.
That’s according to an analysis from the agency’s inspector general’s office, which released a report this week outlining various ways the USPS could apply “augmented reality” technology to its operations.
Augmented reality projects a layer of information on top of a user’s real-world view. Among the technology’s potential uses, it can provide step-by-step driving directions, alert you to a sale at a store you’re about to pass or give tourists historical information about landmarks.
The digital eyewear can run anywhere from $400 to $1,500 apiece, but the inspector general said it can bring about efficiencies that save money in the end.
That could be good news for the Postal Service, which is scrambling to come up with new ways to save and generate revenue after losing billions of dollars annually in recent years, largely due to declining mail volume and a 2006 law that requires the agency to prefund retiree health benefits.
The USPS has already experimented with augmented reality for the purpose of advertising its products and selling marketing opportunities to customers. Below are 5 ways the inspector general thinks the agency could now save money with the technology:
* Packing trucks: Digital eyewear could guide letter carriers to pack their trucks in ways that maximize capacity while protecting fragile items.
* Alerting workers to maintenance needs: The glasses could inform postal employees of maintenance needs and provide step-by-step instructions on how to perform those tasks. More than half of the Postal Service’s 211,000 vehicles were more than 20 years old and nearing the end of their useful lives in 2014, according to the report.
* Driving directions: The devices could help letter carriers avoid traffic congestion and hazards, in addition to showing new or substitute carriers how to find obscure mailboxes or interior offices. As such, the technology could save time for workers.
* Verifying identity: The USPS could use facial-recognition technology to verify an individual’s identity, providing a more secure delivery option. Given the recent concerns about government invasions of privacy, it’s unclear how many postal customers would submit to facial scans.
* Inventory management: Augmented reality could help the Postal Service streamline inventory management and consolidate its tracking system. Recent inspector general audits have found that vehicle-maintenance facilities in particular sometimes struggle to keep all the items they need in stock because of availability from suppliers. It’s worth noting that the same work could probably be done with software on a basic desktop or laptop computer.
Read the full inspector general’s report for additional cost-saving opportunities the watchdog identified.