Fifteen years ago, not long after I joined a small Geographic Information System (GIS) Data team, talks had started around the proposed creation of a new postcode system in the Republic of Ireland. Since then, the concept ebbed and flowed but in July 2015, there was a tangible result: the long-anticipated launch of the new Irish postal system. Eircodes have arrived.
Why have they been introduced?
The main reason behind their introduction is simple. Over 1/3 of properties in Ireland share their address with at least one other property. This duplication is also seen with the tradition of the same family names (first and surname) being handed down through generations. From an address point of view this can get pretty confusing although An Post, the state-owned provider of postal services in Ireland, is well known for delivering items with just a whisper of an address. The Eircode is a unique identifier which is assigned to each residential and business address similar to the UPRN (Unique Property Reference Number) in Great Britain. The UPRN has been called a ‘golden thread’ which allows the easy linkage of multiple datasets using that common identifier, but it’s not seen as a postcode in its traditional sense. The adoption of Eircodes has seen the multiple buildings identified within a postcode, recognised by citizens of many countries around the globe, leapfrogged with a single address per postcode being identified.
Why are they so important?
The Project has cost around 27 million Euros over an 8 year contract period*1, to serve a population of under 5 million. It provides a little over 2 million properties with an Eircode. This is a considerable cost so, understandably, stakeholders are looking for the successful completion of the project and both the value and benefit it will realise. Surprisingly, to some, postcodes can be both a passionate and valuable topic. In Great Britain, postcode allocation can add or remove thousands of pounds from the price of a house as they allow easy access to a preferred school, affect health care provision, council tax rates and bin collection days. They are used for Insurance calculations, for online delivery and to route emergency services: in short, they’re used a lot. Talk has already heated up around Eircodes and their appropriateness for similar applications. Not all the talk has been positive and a number of publications have gone so far as to list adopters for key applications who are reassessing or refusing to implement them within their business systems*2.
What does my business need to do?
Businesses will need to carefully review the application of Eircodes considering cost/benefit implications. Ultimately, a single precise and accurate delivery address will have benefits such as driving down costs generated by undeliverable or returned items. This will go hand-in-glove with an improvement in delivering services with providers being able to locate addresses more confidently, again reducing costs. The address clarity will also enable more targeted and focussed sales and marketing activity again reducing resource outlay but also allowing more focussed material to reach the appropriate target audience.
But, of course, for this to happen, businesses need to ensure their customer data and mail processing systems are updated with Eircodes.
The future for Eircodes
The introduction of Eircodes is not just a postal addressing change. It is a catalyst that will change the way the Irish population can identify an address, receive goods and services and increasingly convert digital interaction to the physical medium that turns up at their door. Up until now the gate keeper to this world has often been the An Post delivery person who has a detailed knowledge of their postal routes and the people who live there. What the Eircode promises is increased access to that world where no previous address knowledge is needed. As mentioned earlier, Emergency Services, on-line delivery, routing and other organisations will benefit by having a pin-point address to find, but as with any new system there’s always a snag list. This is a complicated large project which has been much anticipated. Just how big that snag list is and will the implementation be successful is an almost impossible question to answer. The next few months will begin to reveal how difficult that task really is as perhaps the hardest part of the project unfolds: the rate at which the public and businesses readily adopt and use Eircodes in their everyday lives.
Pitney Bowes in the Republic of Ireland
Pitney Bowes works with businesses and public sector organisations across the Republic of Ireland. With an office on Calmont Park in Dublin, Pitney Bowes provides on-the-ground support and strategic expertise, delivering innovations that help clients navigate the complex and evolving world of commerce.
*1 Figures from the Irish independent