The growing interest surrounding Smart Parcel Lockers, standalone devices that automate the process of receiving, storing and dispensing parcels most commonly for residential buildings, has largely echoed the dramatic increases we’ve seen in the e-commerce industry.

As more consumers turn towards online options for shopping, they’re also looking for solutions that fall outside of the usual “buy it online – but make sure you’re home when it arrives” example.

The premise is simple: Create a standalone series of lockers with slots to accommodate parcels of all sizes and shapes, include a CPU that ties all of these together (the Smart Parcel Locker host), use software that couriers/buildings can connect with, and offer up an LCD screen and an ATM-like scanner and a keypad that the consumer can interact with. A simple system on paper (in reality it’s much more complex) that allows a courier to efficiently drop off parcels and enables a consumer to pick those parcels up at their leisure in seconds.

Let’s fast forward to 2020 and add COVID-19 into the equation, and some serious considerations are being brainstormed around the parcel delivery model. First and foremost, can the entire process be designed to be “touchless ”? Same convenience, same security, but designed to limit the “touchpoints” of those using the locker.

As it is now,  our Smart Parcel Lockers limit human interactions. Consumers can pick up parcels by going to the locker, scanning a barcode (it’s sent to the consumer when their item is ready to be picked up), and after the slot door opens they take their parcel out. However, we’re looking at other ways to produce a smarter, safer, more “Pandemic Proof” locker, ver 2.0.

Here are a few of our ideas:

Bacteria and virus resistant paint: There are various paints and finishes available that discourage the growth of harmful pathogens. These could be applied to all surfaces of the Smart Parcel Locker. A welcome addition to the fight.

Self-closing slot doors: One of the weak links of the current locker from being touchless is that after a parcel is picked up the slot door has to be shut manually. Our idea is to have the slot door shut automatically once a sensor inside detects that has parcel has been removed during the pickup process. Similarly, after a courier deposits a parcel, (sensor picks that up) the door closes automatically.

The parcel itself: Turns out that viruses like COVID-19 can live on cardboard for up to 5 days – something to consider. It also turns out that UV lighting can kill them. Our idea is to install UV lights in all slots, covering 360 degrees of the parcel and ultimately killing anything harmful on the surface. The lights themselves are economical, relatively simple to install and can be programmed to turn off after a set period of time to limit utility costs.

No doubt that over time Smart Parcel Lockers will become the “How did we live without this before” appliance that we’ll all take for granted. The question is, how will they evolve? The current crisis will pass, but what will we as a global community learn from the experience? One thing is certain, the sensitivities surrounding “social distancing” will endure for a while, and it’s our aim at Parcel Port to be ready with options in a culture of “touchlessness”.

Thanks for reading,

The Parcel Port team