USPS® IMI: Compliance comes with benefits

Adopting the Intelligent Mail Indicia is required – but there are also six smart reasons to comply.

USPS is implementing new mailing technology

If you’re like many mailers, IMI, or Intelligent Mail Indicia, hasn’t been top of mind. However, that will soon need to change. Why? Because as of December 2024,* the USPS is completing the transition to its new performance standards, and you will no longer be able to use non-IMI compliant postage meters.

Why IMI requires a new generation of postage meters

IMI replaces the outdated IBI (Information Based Indicia) performance standard with newer, more sophisticated technology that provides the Postal Service with much more detailed real-time transaction data. It also enables the USPS to automate operations, employ improved security standards, and ensure correct postage is used. This requires more powerful processing capabilities—in other words, a new generation of hardware, not a simple software upgrade.

This change is long overdue. The IMI specification was first introduced back in 2013 to replace IBI technology, which is now more than two decades old. Although IMI-compliant postage machines have been in use for some time now, slower than expected adoption of the IMI standard has prevented the Postal Service from fully realizing its benefits. Universal adoption of the new IMI technology will help the USPS achieve the service excellence goals stated in its 10-year plan. Modernization will support world-class delivery and reliability at affordable prices.

“From time to time in the past, the USPS has updated their specs and their requirements for postage evidencing systems like postage meters,” said Paul Kovlakas, Director, Postal Regulatory and Industry Affairs at Pitney Bowes. “This specification allows them to do things like automate processes and improve user experience.”

A man opening an envelope

Benefits of the new Intelligent Mail Indicia

While IMI adoption is required, mailers will also find this change will deliver businesses even more value in six ways:

1. IMI prevents overspending.

Have you ever added additional postage to a package, just in case? It’s a more common practice than you may realize, and a waste on your bottom line. IMI eliminates guesswork and overspending because the USPS has eliminated the ability to key in postage. Instead, the user selects the desired service class, and the meter automatically calculates the correct postage. What’s more, because the postage is always correct, you don’t have to deal with costly returns for insufficient postage.

2. IMI smooths your cash flow.

Because IMI captures detailed transaction data, it’s easier than ever to obtain refund authorizations and get your money back. For example, if you purchase insurance for a shipment, that information is embedded in the IMI barcode for that package. If the contents are damaged in transit, there is no need to present a receipt for the insurance fee at the Post Office. The USPS can simply review the data to verify the insurance fee was paid and process the insurance claim automatically.

3. IMI keeps you up to date.

With IMI, your meter uses a dedicated network connection to communicate with your provider more frequently. This ensures that changes to postage rates and specifications are downloaded directly to your meter, and that you are always working with the latest information.

4. IMI improves mail deliverability and efficiency.

The real-time transactional data with IMI provides revenue assurance - knowing that the postage paid is the right amount for the class and services that have been selected. As a result, USPS can process the mail and deliver services more efficiently and smoothly.

5. IMI helps reduce mailing costs.

Postage rates are based on the cost of service. IMI helps the USPS reduce costs by automating many back office and labor-intensive manual tasks. For example, instead of counting mail by hand, IMI streamlines sampling and verification by automatically capturing and tabulating all transaction data.

6. IMI strengthens data security.

Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities in data security. IMI incorporates robust security that encrypts sensitive data to facilitate Fraud Detection. It also ensures secure transmittal both to and from the meter. Built-in FIPS 140-2 Security Level 3+ (a U.S. government computer security standard for cryptographic modules) also provides physical tamper-resistance and identity-based authentication to protect against fraud.

Now is the right time to start planning your transition to IMI.

The deadline is just around the corner and a little advance research now can help you avoid last-minute pressure to obtain and install a new device. Watch our recently recorded webinar and virtual demo to learn more about the intelligent mail journey, what it means for mailers, and how PB can help ensure compliance. Find out whether your current postage meter uses outdated IBI technology. If it does, the USPS will decertify your meter as of June 30, 2024, and require it to be withdrawn by December 31, 2024.*

Pitney Bowes understands that this USPS mandate, while necessary, can cause some inconvenience and concern. But rest assured that we are here to help you keep pace with today’s mailing industry demands and ensure that you are fully prepared for IMI’s new technology requirements. “One of the things I think we do very well at Pitney Bowes is continuously innovate,” Kovlakas states. “It's not enough for us to just upgrade the technology to meet the current spec. So not only are you moving into the technology that the Postal Service now requires, but you're also getting more value from Pitney Bowes.”

* Certain high volume mailing machines with enhanced data security features, such as Pitney Bowes SendPro® P or similar devices are approved for use by the USPS through December 31, 2027.