Record Number of ZIP Code Changes Signals Major Shift for USPS and Boundary Designation
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Record Number of ZIP Code Changes Signals Major Shift for USPS and Boundary Designation

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Industry News
Record Number of ZIP Code Changes Signals Major Shift for USPS and Boundary Designation
By Susan Smith

Signs of the times seem to proliferate in; from going out to dinner fewer times a month, to abbreviated travel, to not buying a new home, to price cuts in software.

The high number of changes in ZIP Codes for the United States Post Office (USPS) in recent months is one of those reflections of change, directly traceable to economics, but also changing the face of how we view demarcation within cities and towns.

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
The Ophiem, IL post office was closed, and the surrounding ZIP Codes (including 61413 pictured) were expanded to pick up the delivery area no longer served by the Ophiem post office

For the company, Maponics, their start nine years ago attracted customers in the direct marketing space, so creating ZIP Codes maps was a pretty straightforward solution for their customers’ need to know the ZIP Codes that were best to mail to.

According to Maponics’ press release, “Maponics announced that the latest release of its suite of ZIP Codes map data shows evidence of a record number of ZIP Codes changes over the 3 months since the previous data release. This news validates that the U.S. Postal Service has already implemented significant on-the-ground changes related to the massive work force and mail delivery infrastructure re-evaluation it announced earlier this year, a reorganization initiated to address a projected 20 billion drop in mail pieces from fiscal year 2008 to 2009.”

“To compile the data requires an incredible amount of machine power and proprietary algorithms, to take something like 42 million records from the USPS every month and join them up to street networks and then create polygons, essentially boundaries of every ZIP Codes in the U.S.,” said Darrin Clement, CEO of Maponics. “What’s new is that in the past few months the number of changes that the USPS has pushed through in terms of the coverage area for ZIP Codes is more than we’ve ever seen. For example, San Francisco Bay Area, in just three months, 26% of the ZIP Codes changed.”

As a result of budget cuts and reduced volume of mail, the USPS is doing a lot of consolidating and getting rid of ZIP Codes. As a result, surrounding ZIP Codes have to absorb those other delivery areas, and so the “shape” of a ZIP Codes is really what’s accounting for most of the changes, according to Clement.

As post offices around the country are closing, there are still some areas of the country that are expanding in population and where more ZIP Codes are being added. Even in light of these additions, Clement said most change is consolidation of ZIP Codes which require surrounding ZIP Codes to pick up the slack. “That’s important for marketers, for any website, and when you think about real estate industry and how much they focus on ZIP Codes for driving sales, lead generation, home values, etc.,” said Clement. “ZIP Codes that now cover different parts of the city than they used to are going to skew property values and demographics, and so ZIP Codes have infiltrated just about every area of commerce. And so when you have this level of change it really disrupts business as usual for a lot of industries.”

With that in mind, Maponics customers will get every three months new data releases. The biggest competitor to Maponics is TeleAtlas, with a ZIP Codes product line as well as street navigation and database.

A reduction in the budget of the USPS due to the projection of lower and lower mail volumes is responsible for a lot of the ZIP Codes consolidation in the country. Congress doesn’t want to keep funding something that is being used less and less, Clement pointed out, so as a result of the reduced funding they have to change their operations in order to make do with a lower cost of operations.

The postal side of Maponics’ business has been stable as ZIP Codes have been a solid component of business, however, now there is instability in the number of changes in that world. “Where Maponics has started to see a lot of interest is in the fact that ZIP Codes aren’t neighborhoods,” said Clement. “People try to use ZIP Codes to approximate neighborhoods but neighborhoods are less linearly defined. They’re a lot more fuzzy - where does a neighborhood start and stop especially in urban areas, so we’ve actually mapped out over 90,000 neighborhood boundaries and those are being used by companies in the mobile space, real estate, online directories. A lot of people think in terms of neighborhoods rather than in terms of ZIP Codes. The average consumer doesn’t know a lot of ZIP Codes, they know the one they live in, they know the one they work in, and maybe they know the one of their mother’s.”

The overlap of neighborhoods within a ZIP Codes makes neighborhoods nearly impossible to map using ZIP Codes. “That’s where we’re seeing a lot of excitement in the landscape right now is by trying to target things by neighborhood rather than by ZIP Codes,” said Clement.

Maponics is also going international as there is a need for the same kind of data in other parts of the world. The company is in the process of creating neighborhoods and postal data for Europe now.

Since the post is managed by each country within the European Union separately, it is a lot more difficult to see signals of a change in their postal systems, said Clement. So far they have not seen global trends in mail volume.

According to the press release, all Maponics postal data is available for file delivery in a wide range of formats so that it integrates easily with ESRI, Pitney Bowes MapInfo, Oracle , SAP and many other GIS, database and web applications. It is also available via the Maponics Spatial API on a transactional basis.

The latest version of the Maponics ZIP Codes map data suite, version 1.9.4, features an a la cart selection of datasets, including: 5-digit ZIP Codes boundaries, ZIP+4 data (9-digit ZIP Codes data), postal carrier route boundaries, neighborhood-to-ZIP Codes correspondence data and custom postal datasets.

Top News of the Week

Intermap Technologies
announced at the ASPRS / MAPPS 2009 Specialty Conference that high-resolution digital elevation models and images for the entire states of Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas are commercially available. Collected as part of Intermap’s NEXTMap USA nationwide mapping program, scheduled for completion by June 30, 2010, these datasets join other complete statewide coverage of Arizona, California, Florida, and Mississippi, along with partial state coverage areas – all of which are immediately available for purchase and include approximately 80% of the U.S.

To help users evaluate ESRI’s mobile geographic information system (GIS) solutions, the company is conducting a free live training seminar this month that will demonstrate the technology’s versatility and power. Introduction to ESRI Mobile GIS Solutions will air at on Thursday, November 19, at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m., Pacific standard time.

GeoNorth is pleased to announce the release of a powerful and convenient developer tool for ArcGIS Server which allows the printing of high resolution maps. Due to current limitations which prevent ArcIMS and ArcGIS Server web clients from exceeding 96 dpi image output, this tool is essential for GIS users who require high-end cartographic quality and the option to print larger sized maps from a web based mapping application.

Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

IBM announced a $14.5 million agreement with Power and Water Corporation, the Northern Territory's multi-utility provider, to help design and implement an asset management system aimed at delivering electricity, water and sewerage services to its customers more efficiently. Serving approximately 80,000 customers across more than 1.3 million kilometers of the Northern Territory spanning vastly different environments comprised of arid deserts to tropics, Power and Water will tap IBM's expertise and technology for its Asset Management Capability (AMC) Project, a four-year program to improve asset management practices across the corporation.

RapidEye, the only geospatial solutions provider to own and operate a constellation of five identical Earth Observation satellites, announced that they have penned a contract with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to image a substantial portion of the state of Colorado.

Topcon Positioning Systems (TPS) announces its new partnership with Aerotec, LLC of Bessemer, Alabama.

Aerotec, LLC has created an electric power transmission right-of-way vegetation management application to run on Topcon's GRS-1 hand-held GPS receiver. This joint solution for vegetation management applications allows utility foresters to easily use GPS to identify and locate conductor-vegetation clearance problem much faster and more accurately than current alternative methods, according to TPS’ Richard Rybka, partner development manager.


Topcon has received an order for 90 GPS receivers from the Geographical Survey Institute (GSI), an affiliate of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). This is in addition to the 360 receivers ordered in July.

Topcon will provide a total of 450 receivers for the GPS Earth Observation Network System (GEONET) operated by the GSI. It is expected the new systems, including additional 90 receivers, will be in operation by the end of March 2010.


ESRI welcomes Ahmed Abukhater, GISP, as the new community development industry solutions manager on its government team. Abukhater will focus on planning and economic development including industry-wide enterprise geographic information system (GIS) and planning 2.0 initiatives.

DMTI Spatial (DMTI) has announced the appointment of Chris North to Vice President of Customer Advocacy and Product Strategy. As a member of DMTI's Product Solutions Team, Chris will lead DMTI's Product Management group and be responsible for creating a strategy that speaks on the behalf of customers. His core objective will be to translate customer business challenges into technology solutions that solve their problems.

Enspiria Solutions
announced that the company continues to expand Smart Grid Program and Project Management capabilities with the addition of Scott Stein, PMP.


Autodesk, Inc. reported financial results for the third quarter of fiscal 2010. Revenue was $417 million, flat sequentially, and a decrease of 31 percent compared to the third quarter of fiscal 2009. press release

HP announced preliminary results for the fourth fiscal quarter 2009, with revenue of $30.8 billion, down 8% from a year earlier; down 5% when adjusted for the effects of currency and up 12% sequentially. press release

New Products

ADC WorldMap
is pleased to announce the release of ADC WorldMap Digital Atlas Version 5.3. Along with providing up to date country and level one administrative boundaries for the entire world, the release features the addition of an ocean bathymetry layer, improved contours, more cities with population data, and increased US road coverage. The new product also includes UTM zones and ISO country and administrative codes.

Maponics announced that the latest release of its suite of ZIP Codes map data shows evidence of a record number of ZIP Codes changes over the 3 months since the previous data release. This news validates that the U.S. Postal Service has already implemented significant on-the-ground changes related to the massive work force and mail delivery infrastructure re-evaluation it announced earlier this year, a reorganization initiated to address a projected 20 billion drop in mail pieces from fiscal year 2008 to 2009.

Definiens announced the launch of its latest software offering for earth science professionals, Definiens eCognition version 8. The new software suite delivers functionality specifically designed for geospatial image analysis while also achieving marked improvements in processing performance.

Telmap announced the availability of two new patented technologies, which will improve the application design process for developers and search experience. The approval of these patents proves once again that Telmap is at the forefront of location related innovation.

ZoomAtlas announced the launch of its free, photo-realistic wiki-mapping site, The site combines the technology of interactive maps with the social networking of Facebook for users to post notes, stories and insights to reconnect its users with friends, family and places from their past.

DataArt, a high-end software development company with headquarters in New York and R&D centers in Eastern Europe, announced that it has completed back-end development of GeoLife’s Navmii turn-by-turn navigation application for the iPod touch. While such applications are already available for the iPhone, Navmii is the first to bring GPS navigation with smart routing, interactive maps and spoken directions to the iPod touch. Navmii for iPhone and the iPod touch will be available in the U.S. this winter.

MWH Soft announced the immediate release of Generation V8.5 of H2OMAP SWMM and InfoSWMM for ArcGIS (ESRI, Redlands, CA). The new version adds powerful features and leverages engine enhancements included in the latest release of EPA SWMM5 (5.0.017). It also improves depth and performance by extending the MWH Soft tradition of including new enhancements specifically requested by customers. Version 8.5 marks a significant evolution of the company’s SWMM-based urban drainage modeling and design products, which continue to be top choices for the effective evaluation, design, management, rehabilitation and operation of wastewater and stormwater collection systems.

NAVTEQ announced a significant expansion of NAVTEQ Traffic real-time traffic coverage in Canada.

With these enhancements, NAVTEQ Traffic coverage for Canada has doubled to encompass more than 13 million people, or more than 40 percent of Canada's total population. NAVTEQ Traffic is now available in seven of Canada's major metro areas, including: Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Vancouver, British Columbia; Ottawa-Gatineau, Ontario and Quebec; Hamilton, Ontario; St. Catharines-Niagara Ontario; and Oshawa, Ontario. This recent expansion more than doubles the number of Canadian markets previously covered by NAVTEQ, and is part of a significant expansion effort to provide Canadian commuters the comprehensive real-time traffic information they demand.

LizardTech, a division of Celartem Inc. announced the integration of its MrSID Generation 4 (MG4) SDK into Global Mapper version 11.01.

Until recently, Global Mapper’s customers were not able to load point cloud datasets that were compressed to MrSID Generation 4 using LiDAR Compressor into Global Mapper. However, with the addition of support for MG4 in Global Mapper version 11.01 users can load point cloud datasets compressed to MrSID Generation 4 for use in volumetric analysis, contour generation, and visualization.

UK GIS supplier GGP Systems has launched a new version of its web based GIS. Designed to make up to the minute local authority service information readily accessible via the Internet, eGGP 2009 provides access to data held in spatial database formats and supports national initiatives such as t-Government and Communities in Control. The software has a new-look user interface with advanced mapping functionality and a faster more refined online experience underpinned by a reworked map rendering engine. eGGP 2009 also provides improved security with sophisticated user authentification and account management.

Perth based iintegrate Systems has developed Indji Watch –a unique real time online system that provides early warning of natural hazards and which also initiates predetermined responses. Indji Watch monitors threats from natural hazards such as fire, lightning strike, flood, tsunami, cyclone, hurricane, severe hail storms and even earthquakes according to
Mark Carniello, Indji Watch Product Manager at iintegrate Systems.

SuperGeo Technologies
develops a Biodiversity GIS application for users to query species information and share survey data by Internet GIS.

Through the Internet platform, users are able to connect to other databases. The personalized survey data management software offers users the customized management functions. The website also provides the links to statistic data and distribution chart of survey data, as well as the survey table sharing function. In addition, a contribution quantification function is created for users to increase their willingness and convenience to contribute survey data. Therefore, every person could easily be a biological surveyor.

Around the Web

Interactive Map from The GIS Institute -Thanks to all who have helped get this project up and going, and especially for those of you who have donated this week. We need all the support we can get, so please read the blog, and consider donating to help us map AND clean-up the oceans.



1Spatial Scotland seminar: Cost effective reuse of spatial infrastructure
Date: November 27, 2009
Place: Oracle
Scotland, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Many organisations have invested significantly in an information systems architecture to support business operations that are underpinned by spatial data - this is their spatial infrastructure. With large sums of money already spent on data, software, hardware and training, it is essential to reuse this infrastructure to maximise return on investment. This event is aimed at GIS managers, data custodians, IT managers and IT directors who want to learn more about methods and tools for achieving cost effective reuse of their spatial infrastructure.

Autodesk University 2009 Exhibition
Date: November 29 - December 4, 2009
Place: Mandalay Bay Hotel
Las Vegas, NV USA

Autodesk University is the premier Autodesk learning and networking event. Now in its 17th year, this largest gathering of Autodesk enthusiasts brings together motivated product users with gifted instructors, industry leaders, and Autodesk partners.

URISA Leadership Academy
Date: December 7 - 11, 2009
Place: Seattle, WA USA

The entire five day program, the only leadership training program of its type, is tailored to industry leaders and practitioners faced with unique challenges of GIS leadership and management and who want to make an impact leveraging the power of GIS.