Will TomTom’s Mapcode Replace the Zip Code?

Dutch online business daily NRC Q opened with a report on how TomTom hopes its Mapcode will make the postal zip-code systems obsolete. “Forget the zip code.Soon, instead of 3511EW Utrecht, all you’ll need to put on your envelope is Q6.FM.”

Walther Ploos van Amstel blogs on EFT:

“At least,” the digital newspaper continues, “that’s what Pieter Geelen and Harold Goddijn, founders of the Dutch automotive navigation company TomTom, would like to see.” Will Mapcode really mean the end of zip codes?

With Mapcode, TomTom has come up with a new way of determining location that should eliminate the need for the existing postal zip-code systems.The Mapcode is a unique series of no less than four and no more than nine numbers and letters that accurately indicates a specific spot on earth within a couple of yards.

By offering Mapcode as a free and universal addressing system, the Mapcode Foundation enables deliveries to homes, businesses and individual (un)loading docks even in cities without street names or formal addressing systems.

Emerging e-commerce regions

In rapidly emerging e-commerce regions such as China, Russia, South America, the Middle East and Africa, zip codes – and often even addresses – are lacking. That hampers the growth of web stores.Parcel delivery companies in those regions end up developing their own (local) services to solve that problem, but those services are not open for other players and they aren’t cheap. Mapcode, in contrast, is an open system.

Ever since 1977, the Netherlands has been fortunate enough to have a zip-code system that identifies each building uniquely and efficiently steers the sorting processes at post and parcel delivery companies.Yet every country in Europe still has its own system of zip codespostcodescodes postaux and Postleitzahlen. That’s not very handy, is it?

Free and open

Being free and open, Mapcode is a promising development. It is perfectly conceivable that the various national zip codes will cease to exist. The first parcel delivery companies to adopt Mapcode stand to achieve a major leap forward in terms of the productivity within their international sorting and delivery networks. But the law of the handicap of a head start will no doubt lead to a delay of five to ten years before that happens in Europe. The emerging economies can start working with it sooner.

I’m going to have to start getting used to the idea of using NLD3L.QH. Or NLD3J.HN, if I want to have my package delivered to my favorite bar.

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Walther Ploos van Amstel  

Passie in logistiek & supply chain management