PLANET

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PLANET

PLANET — the Postal Alpha Numeric Encoding Technique — was developed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help mailers track sent letters and packages. PLANET bars have since been replaced by the USPS Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb).

PLANET was offered as part of USPS Confirm service, which helped improve the mail tracking process. PLANET codes consist of five vertical bars that are one of two “states” — tall or short. All PLANET codes start and end with tall bars. PLANET was used by the USPS until 2013, when it was superseded by four-state IMb codes. 

Format

Confirm service users could choose between two service types — Destination Confirm and Origin Confirm — which contained differing symbol elements.

Destination Confirm PLANET codes contained eight key elements:

  • A leading quiet zone.
  • The start or “frame” bar, which is always tall.
  • The two-digit service ID type. For example, code 40 represented first-class mail letters while code 42 represented standards mail letters.
  • The five-digit subscriber ID, which was assigned by USPS.
  • The six-digit Mailer Use code, defined by the Mailer.
  • A check digit.
  • The stop frame bar, which is always tall.
  • A trailing quiet zone.

Origin Confirm codes contained seven key elements:

  • A leading quiet zone.
  • The start bar, which is always tall.
  • The two-digit service ID type. Code 50 stood for courtesy reply letters, while code 53 was for business reply flats.
  • The nine- or eleven-digit Customer ID.
  • A check digit.
  • The stop bar, which is always tall.
  • A trailing quiet zone.

All data is encoded by varying the height of PLANET bars, and each character contains five bars, two of which are short and three of which are tall. The spaces are of fixed width. PLANET barcodes support only numeric characters 0-9. PLANET codes appear to have 12 or 14 characters, but one character is always a checksum, meaning that each PLANET code contains either 11 or 13 data characters total.

Common Use Cases

PLANET was designed to improve the tracking, sorting, and identification of mail across the United States. While it offers significant advantages over previous barcode types, the four-state IMb provided greater information density and is now used in place of PLANET.