Piecing Together the Address Puzzle. By Mabel Grein (USPS, Information Technology). May 3, 2001. Santa Clara, California. Presentation at the ECCMA Meeting: "Addressing Standards in the New Millennium." 28 slides in Powerpoint presentation. Topics Covered: Why the USPS became involved; Quick history; Where we are today with ECCMA; ADIS. This outline generated from original Powerpoint source: http://www.eccma.org/download/MabelGrein-May3.zip.

Piecing Together The Address Puzzle

Topics Covered

n     Why the USPS became involved

n     Quick history

n     Where we are today with ECCMA

n     ADIS

n     Thanks



Have You Ever Seen These Symptoms?

n   Systems that collect similar information but cannot communicate with each other

n   Screens that are designed to collect a specific type of data without consideration of all the differences within that type of data

n   The address information collected exceeds the space available on the output medium

Poorly Designed Data Collection

Attention name:  Mr. Abdula Hasim  

Company name:  International Communication Sdn. Bhd                                             

Address line 1   :  Wisma International                                             

Address line 2   :  Lot 10, 9/5 Jalan Paku                                            

City                    :  49200 KAJANG                          

State                   :  Selangor              

ZIP Code          :  Malaysia



Will the Address Fit? 

          Percy Silverstone Smythe-Jones

          The Family Jewelry Ltd

          Fieldstone Cottage on the Thames

          98765 South Wuthering Heights Road



          Ha8 9xg



Historical prospective

In 1996 the USPS was experiencing all these problems with:

n   Older applications/external input/design differences across functional areas, and all caused havoc when trying to share corporate information.

n   Newer applications were being developed based upon a historical understanding of domestic addressing requirements despite the real, but unrecognized, need to collect international information as well.

A Standard is the answer

We needed to establish a standard for addressing that was based on more than personal experience and authority.

The standard needed to be established in such a way that external (non-Postal) vendors would also recognize it.

Data Interchange Standards Association

In 1996 the USPS began working  with industry leaders and the Data Interchange Standards Association on an EDI standard (TS-101) for domestic name and address lists.

TS-101 is a domestic address standard designed to facilitate the transmission of strung address lines or parsed address elements or a combination of both styles.




Address Collection

Addresses have historically been collected in strung address lines as presented by the addressee or their representative. 

When entered into the database in this fashion it is hard to analyze the data and it permits little control or intelligence in the presentation.

What is the Relationship?

One wouldn’t set out to build a database without identifying the contents of the rows and columns, yet, most address information is entered without knowing  what parts of an address will be in which column.  This is especially important with international addresses where the address formats and languages may be unfamiliar.

Implications of International Addresses

Where does the Post Code go?  This is, possibly, the simplest and most difficult question I have been asked.  There are other issues that involve county/province/state locations, capitalization, punctuation, field lengths and special handling instructions. 

  How do you build an intelligent database when the rules change from country to country?

Parsing is the Answer

By breaking the address components down to their lowest logical level you can build an intelligent database.

But how do you put the addresses back together?

Templates for Reassembly

Templates outline where the address elements should be placed to rebuild the address.


The USPS and mailing industry leaders began work on the international address standard, PROLST, in 1999.

We presented our work for the first time at the UN/EDIFACT meeting in March 2000 at the Paris EDIFACT Work Group (EWG) meeting. 

PROLST gains MID status

PROLST was approved as a UN/EDIFACT Message In Development (MID) in March 2000.

PROLST was modified as a result of the input from the Paris meeting and was revised at the Taiwan EWG  meeting. 

PROLST Status Today

The Electronic Commerce Code Management Association (ECCMA) -  International Address Element Code (IAEC) tables used by PROLST have been propagated with all the US domestic, and some international, elements.

The eight templates identified for USPS addresses will  be available soon from the ECCMA web page.

PROLST - Future Plans

In September 2001 the USPS plans to present PROLST for acceptance as a full UNSM standard to the UN/EDIFACT  Subcommittee. 


How Can We Move So Swiftly?

By externalizing the code tables we can add elements to the standard as they are revealed by the research. 

   Today the element tables maintained by Electronic Commerce Code Management Association contain all of the domestic name and address elements identified by the USPS and the mailing industry representatives.

   Soon the element tables will reflect the elements identified by the Center for European Normalization (CEN).

Universal Postal Union Efforts

 In January the USPS  and Joe Lubenow representing the GCA and the UPU-DMAB joined forces, prepared and presented documents for two standards proposals (Status P) for the UPU.  The purpose of these proposals was to:

          Collect address elements

          Create EDI and XML messages

Collect Address Elements

To begin the work on collecting address elements a survey was sent by the UPU POST*Code Technology task force led by Mike Murphy of the USPS to all member posts of the UPU.  The purpose was to determine which countries had already identified address elements and to determine which countries desired assistance with developing this information.

Where We Are Today

n   International address elements are being collected

n   US address templates have been developed

n   US address elements are in the ECCMA web site tables (example follows)

n   US templates will soon be available in the ECCMA web site tables (example follows)

n   White paper is in a draft state.

Sample of the IAEC Element Entries


001       10           000                    Physical Address Component

006       10           002                    House number           

012       10           008                    Mailstop        

013       10           009                    Street name

002       11           000                    Name Component    

046       11           002                    Primary honorific        

047       11           003                    Primary given name    

048       11           004                    Primary first middle name

049       11           005                    Primary second middle name

040       11           006                    Primary family name


Sample Address Template

The Next Step

As international address element and template information is gathered by the UPU this information will be added to the ECCMA - IAEC tables.  Countries that have already built databases and have identified address elements will find this easier to do then less developed countries.  Eventually, we hope that this work will reflect all of the world Posts.  

So Where Does ADIS Fit In?

The GCA ADIS standard is being developed to support address element technology AND to support the common line by line addressing style most companies are using today.  ADIS also incorporates information that printers require.  It is fully compatible with the domestic EDI address standard TS-101.


PROLST is a fully parsed address format.  If the data is parsed in ADIS then ADIS and PROLST are also fully compatible.

What’s The Difference?

The ADIS standard transmits not only name and address information but printer oriented information as well.  Functionally, TS-101 and PROLST were vehicles for exchanging name and address list information. 


Many thanks are owed to Alan Morse of Triplex Direct Marketing, Peter Benson of Resolvenet, Frank Montague of  R.R. Donnelley,  Joe Lubenow and Noel Wickham of Experian, Phil Thompson of Quad/Graphics, the GCA ADIS subcommittee, the folks from DISA, the United Nations/EDIFACT Work Group Purchasing Subcommittee and the UPU standards board.