Barcode (IMb) is a barcode used in U.S. mail. The term "Smart
Mail" refers to the service provided by the United States Postal
Service for domestic mail delivery.
Barcode is a highly modulated barcode used to sort and track
mail. It can encode up to 31 decimal digits divided into 65
vertical bars. It consists of four different symbols, hence it
was once called the 4-State Customer Barcode.
In 2006, the United
States Postal Service officially released the specifications for
Intelligent Mail Barcode, and began full implementation in 2009.
It allows mail senders to participate in multiple Postal Service
programs simultaneously using a single barcode and expands
tracking capabilities for individual pieces of mail, improving
visibility into mail flow.
origins date back to the 1980s, when the United States Postal
Service began using POSTNET barcodes to automatically identify
postal codes for mail. In 1996, the U.S. Postal Service
introduced the PLANET barcode to track the delivery status of
mail. In 2003, the U.S. Postal Service began developing a new
barcode that combined the capabilities of POSTNET and PLANET and
added more information capacity and security. This is the
prototype of Intelligent Mail Barcode.
combines routing postal code and tracking information contained
in previously used postal barcode standards.
IM barcodes are
designed to provide richer information and functionality than
their predecessors, POSTNET and PLANET.
barcodes are also known as single-code solutions and 4-state
customer barcodes, abbreviated as 4CB, 4-CB or USPS4CB. Complete
specifications can be found in USPS document USPS-B-3200.
IM barcodes are
affixed to mails by the sender. Effective January 28, 2013, the
Postal Service requires the use of smart mail barcodes to
qualify for automated pricing.
The use of IM
barcodes can improve overall efficiency, including improved
delivery capabilities and new services.