Analyze USPS Data in R

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USPS ODBC Driver

The USPS ODBC Driver is a powerful tool that allows you to connect with live data from USPS, directly from any applications that support ODBC connectivity.

Access USPS data like you would a database - read, write, and update USPS Packages, Shipments, Recipients, etc. through a standard ODBC Driver interface.



Create data visualizations and use high-performance statistical functions to analyze USPS data in Microsoft R Open.

Access USPS data with pure R script and standard SQL. You can use the CData ODBC Driver for USPS and the RODBC package to work with remote USPS data in R. By using the CData Driver, you are leveraging a driver written for industry-proven standards to access your data in the popular, open-source R language. This article shows how to use the driver to execute SQL queries to USPS data and visualize USPS data in R.

Install R

You can complement the driver's performance gains from multi-threading and managed code by running the multithreaded Microsoft R Open or by running R linked with the BLAS/LAPACK libraries. This article uses Microsoft R Open (MRO).

Connect to USPS as an ODBC Data Source

Information for connecting to USPS follows, along with different instructions for configuring a DSN in Windows and Linux environments.

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.

When you configure the DSN, you may also want to set the Max Rows connection property. This will limit the number of rows returned, which is especially helpful for improving performance when designing reports and visualizations.

Windows

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.

Linux

If you are installing the CData ODBC Driver for USPS in a Linux environment, the driver installation predefines a system DSN. You can modify the DSN by editing the system data sources file (/etc/odbc.ini) and defining the required connection properties.

/etc/odbc.ini

[CData USPS Source] Driver = CData ODBC Driver for USPS Description = My Description PostageProvider = ENDICIA RequestId = 12345 Password = 'abcdefghijklmnopqr' AccountNumber = '12A3B4C'

For specific information on using these configuration files, please refer to the help documentation (installed and found online).

Load the RODBC Package

To use the driver, download the RODBC package. In RStudio, click Tools -> Install Packages and enter RODBC in the Packages box.

After installing the RODBC package, the following line loads the package:

library(RODBC)

Note: This article uses RODBC version 1.3-12. Using Microsoft R Open, you can test with the same version, using the checkpoint capabilities of Microsoft's MRAN repository. The checkpoint command enables you to install packages from a snapshot of the CRAN repository, hosted on the MRAN repository. The snapshot taken Jan. 1, 2016 contains version 1.3-12.

library(checkpoint) checkpoint("2016-01-01")

Connect to USPS Data as an ODBC Data Source

You can connect to a DSN in R with the following line:

conn <- odbcConnect("CData USPS Source")

Schema Discovery

The driver models USPS APIs as relational tables, views, and stored procedures. Use the following line to retrieve the list of tables:

sqlTables(conn)

Execute SQL Queries

Use the sqlQuery function to execute any SQL query supported by the USPS API.

senders <- sqlQuery(conn, "SELECT FirstName, Phone FROM Senders WHERE SenderID = '25'", believeNRows=FALSE, rows_at_time=1)

You can view the results in a data viewer window with the following command:

View(senders)

Plot USPS Data

You can now analyze USPS data with any of the data visualization packages available in the CRAN repository. You can create simple bar plots with the built-in bar plot function:

par(las=2,ps=10,mar=c(5,15,4,2)) barplot(senders$Phone, main="USPS Senders", names.arg = senders$FirstName, horiz=TRUE)