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Author and Share Power BI Reports on Real-Time USPS Data

Use the CData ODBC Driver for USPS to visualize USPS data in Power BI Desktop and then upload to the Power BI service.

With built-in support for ODBC on Microsoft Windows, CData ODBC Drivers provide self-service integration with self-service analytics tools such as Microsoft Power BI. The CData ODBC Driver for USPS links your Power BI reports to operational USPS data. You can monitor USPS data through dashboards and ensure that your analysis reflects USPS data in real time by scheduling refreshes or refreshing on demand. This article details how to use the ODBC driver to create real-time visualizations of USPS data in Microsoft Power BI Desktop and then upload to Power BI.

The CData ODBC Drivers offer unmatched performance for interacting with live USPS data in Power BI due to optimized data processing built into the driver. When you issue complex SQL queries from Power BI to USPS, the driver pushes supported SQL operations, like filters and aggregations, directly to USPS and utilizes the embedded SQL Engine to process unsupported operations (often SQL functions and JOIN operations) client-side. With built-in dynamic metadata querying, you can visualize and analyze USPS data using native Power BI data types.

Connect to USPS as an ODBC Data Source

If you have not already, first specify connection properties in an ODBC DSN (data source name). This is the last step of the driver installation. You can use the Microsoft ODBC Data Source Administrator to create and configure ODBC DSNs.

To authenticate with USPS, set the following connection properties.

  • PostageProvider: The postage provider to use to process requests. Available options are ENDICIA and STAMPS. If unspecified, this property will default to ENDICIA.
  • UseSandbox: This controls whether live or test requests are sent to the production or sandbox servers. If set to true, the Password, AccountNumber, and StampsUserId properties are ignored.
  • StampsUserId: This value is used for logging into authentication to the Stamps servers. This value is not applicable for Endicia and is optional if UseSandbox is true.
  • Password: This value is used for logging into Endicia and Stamps servers. If the postage provider is Endicia, this will be the pass phrase associated with your postage account. It is optional if UseSandbox is true.
  • AccountNumber: The shipper's account number. It is optional if UseSandbox is true.
  • PrintLabelLocation: This property is required to use the GenerateLabels or GenerateReturnLabels stored procedures. This should be set to the folder location where generated labels should be stored.

The Cache Database

Many of the useful task available from USPS require a lot of data. To ensure this data is easy to input and recall later, utilize a cache database to make requests. Set the cache connection properties in order to use the cache:

  • CacheLocation: The path to the cache location, for which a connection will be configured with the default cache provider. For example, C:\users\username\documents\uspscache

As an alternative to CacheLocation, set the combination of CacheConnection and CacheProvider to configure a cache connection using a provider separate from the default.

After creating a DSN, follow the steps below to connect to the USPS DSN from Power BI Desktop:

  1. Open Power BI Desktop and click Get Data -> ODBC. To start Power BI Desktop from PowerBI.com, click the download button and then click Power BI Desktop.
  2. Select the DSN in the menu. If you know the SQL query you want to use to import, expand the Advanced Options node and enter the query in the SQL Statement box.
  3. Select tables in the Navigator dialog.
  4. Click Edit to edit the query. The table you imported is displayed in the Query Editor. In the Query Editor, you can enrich your local copy of USPS data with other data sources, pivot USPS columns, and more. Power BI detects each column's data type from the USPS metadata retrieved by the driver.

    Power BI records your modifications to the query in the Applied Steps section, adjusting the underlying data retrieval query that is executed to the remote USPS data. When you click Close and Apply, Power BI executes the data retrieval query.

    Otherwise, click Load to pull the data into Power BI.

Create Data Visualizations

After pulling the data into Power BI, you can create data visualizations in the Report view by dragging fields from the Fields pane onto the canvas. Follow the steps below to create a pie chart:

  1. Select the pie chart icon in the Visualizations pane.
  2. Select a dimension in the Fields pane: for example, FirstName.
  3. Select a measure in the Phone in the Fields pane: for example, Phone.

You can change sort options by clicking the ellipsis (...) button for the chart. Options to select the sort column and change the sort order are displayed.

You can use both highlighting and filtering to focus on data. Filtering removes unfocused data from visualizations; highlighting dims unfocused data. You can highlight fields by clicking them:

You can apply filters at the page level, at the report level, or to a single visualization by dragging fields onto the Filters pane. To filter on the field's value, select one of the values that are displayed in the Filters pane.

Click Refresh to synchronize your report with any changes to the data.

Upload USPS Data Reports to Power BI

You can share reports based on ODBC data sources with other Power BI users in your organization. To upload a dashboard or report, log into PowerBI.com, click Get Data -> Files, and navigate to a Power BI Desktop file or Excel workbook. You can then select the report in the Reports section.

Refresh on Schedule and on Demand

You can use the Power BI Personal Gateway to automatically refresh the dataset associated with your report. You can also refresh the dataset on demand in Power BI. After installing the Personal Gateway, follow the steps below to schedule refreshes for an ODBC DSN:

  1. Log into Power BI.
  2. In the Dataset section, right-click the USPS Dataset.
  3. Click Schedule Refresh.
  4. In the settings for your dataset, expand the Data Source Credentials node and click Edit Credentials in the ODBC section.
  5. Expand the Schedule Refresh section, select Yes in the Keep Your Data Up to Date menu, and specify the refresh interval.

You can now share real-time USPS reports through Power BI.