Reimagining the Future of Post with Microsoft Azure

 |   Singapore News Center

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PostPal, a smart letterbox system, sorts and dispenses mail and postal packages from a centralized system, allowing residents to experience the future of post – seamless, efficient, and secure.

Postal systems across the world have been grappling with a decline in traditional mail as postal package volumes surged in recent years, largely due to the increasing popularity of e-commerce.

Closer to our shores, Singapore Post (SingPost) has not been immune to this shift. While e-commerce’s strong growth presents ample business opportunities, SingPost was quick to realize that its postal infrastructure and labor-intensive operations would not be sufficient to meet the corresponding surge in e-commerce item volumes in the near future, and the evolving needs of residents desiring more from their postal experience.

An opportunity in crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic only increased the strain on the system. During the circuit breaker, SingPost delivered a record volume of e-commerce packages as lockdown measures forced people to shop online. The subsequent easing of measures and resumption of retail operations did not reverse that change, indicating a permanent shift in e-commerce behavior in Singapore, and underscoring the heightened urgency to revamp the nation’s postal infrastructure.

In line with its “Future of Post” strategy to transform Singapore’s postal landscape within the next five years, SingPost launched PostPal, its first smart letterbox system to serve residents’ postal needs.

Contactless mail made efficient and effective for postmen and residents

Powered by Microsoft Azure IoT Edge, PostPal sorts and dispenses mail and postal packages from a centralized system, authenticated by QR code. It alleviates the physical burden on postmen and women, and allows them to focus on higher-value work. By automating the mail sorting and distribution process, errors are significantly reduced while operational efficiency is increased.

Designed with residents’ needs in mind, PostPal eliminates the need to blind-check letterboxes for mail. Instead, residents can look forward to receiving notifications via a mobile app whenever they receive mail, and retrieving them using a unique QR code generated through their mobile phones.SNC postpal 2

Reimagining the postal system with PostPal, powered by Azure

Azure technology introduces real-time analytics and visualization to the postal supply chain, which enables field operators such as postmen and women to leverage data and intelligence to do better forecasting and decision-making. This helps to transform operations and enhance the postal service for residents in Singapore.

“Azure IoT technology enables reliable, scalable, and secure integration across PostPal’s various processes and applications, which will help to drive its long-term success. Azure’s design as a true hybrid across infrastructure, apps, and data, allows SingPost to achieve end-to-end transformation with our postal operations as well as accelerate application innovation, which is critical in helping us reimagine the Future of Post,” said Vincent Phang, CEO of Postal Services and Singapore, SingPost.

Microsoft is no stranger to helping postal system companies across the world pivot and adapt to evolving needs. Other companies that have already stepped up and revamped their postal operations using Microsoft technology include Finland’s 380-year-old postal office, Posti, which uses Microsoft Azure and AI to make processes more efficient and prevent postal delays before they happen, and Slovenia’s Pošta Slovenije, which turned to Microsoft Services to help it transform a core LOB application into a mobile service for postal workers in the field, dramatically improving operational and cost efficiencies.

Say hello to your friendly neighborhood “postal engineer”

With the introduction of PostPal, SingPost is able to reskill postmen and women, and progressively shift their role from being task-oriented to value-oriented, which will also create a more rewarding professional experience for them. This aligns with SingPost’s aim of reimagining the role of a postman to a “postal engineer”, which will help safeguard postal operations in the digital-first future. Postmen and women now have the opportunity to pick up digital and IT-related skills, just as the rest of the workforce gears itself for the digital economy which has created an insatiable demand for tech-related jobs and skills.

“Given the seismic changes in the postal and logistics landscape, re-looking traditional processes to meet the evolving needs of residents is no longer an option, but an imperative. Microsoft believes in technology being an enabler of positive change, such as driving skilling alongside technology adoption and empowering the workforce to be future-ready. We are proud to be supporting SingPost in this initiative and ensuring the success of PostPal, a milestone in the transformation of post,” Kevin Wo, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.SNC postpal 3

PostPal goes live – a milestone in Singapore’s postal history

Following the introduction of an early prototype, and a resident outreach to bring awareness and education to the community, on 18 December, PostPal officially went live at BLK 202 Clementi Ave 6, with a launch event organized by SingPost. It was attended by Ms. Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development, Paul William Coutts, Group Chief Executive Officer of SingPost, Vincent Phang, SingPost Chief Executive Officer of Postal Services and Singapore, and representatives from partners such as PBA Group Chief Executive Officer Derrick Yap, , and Kevin Wo, Managing Director of Microsoft Singapore.SNC postpal 4

The launch kicked off with opening remarks by Ms Sim Ann and Mr Vincent Phang, followed by a demonstration of PostPal, where the resident postman, Syahiran, loaded mail into the PostPal kiosk for Ms. Sim Ann to retrieve. The representatives fielded questions from the media, while residents were also interviewed on their thoughts of the initiative and new postal experience. A national milestone in the transformation of post, the launch kickstarts a one-year public trial, with feedback and data gathered from the residents used to further fine-tune and enhance PostPal. SingPost also aims to progressively expand the public trial to more precincts over the next year.

SingPost will continue to tap into the ever-expanding suite of enterprise-grade cloud services that Azure provides and Microsoft’s expertise as a long-term technology partner. This partnership exemplifies Microsoft’s unwavering support of SingPost in its “Future of Post” strategy, and our broader commitment towards Singapore’s public sector transformation.SNC postpal 5