Delivering Holiday Cheer, One Package at a Time

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With the holiday season, it’s comforting to track our packages as they travel the mail system. Bar codes are scanned at checkpoints as they pass through. Some websites and apps send automatic notifications when a package first ships and as soon as it arrives at a customer’s door. It’s such a relief to know grandpa received his new shaver!

This is one way the Internet of Things has improved the efficiency and satisfaction of mail delivery. But it could go further. In 2015, the Inspector General issued a report on how IIoT could enhance the United States Postal Service operations and improve customer service.

The Connected Mailbox

Today’s mailboxes weren’t built for online shopping, which can send several packages to your door. Sitting on your porch, precious holiday gifts can be stolen, and temperature-sensitive packages, like your cousin’s annual box of chocolates, can be impacted.

Still in development, a connected mailbox would have a small compartment for letters and a larger compartment for packages. These boxes would have a smart lock that could be opened or locked through an app that the owner and mail courier could access. Sensors would report to the app when mail is delivered and when the boxes are opened or locked.

This security would prevent certified mail – perhaps that smart phone for your nephew you don’t want left on the porch – from needing to be handed directly to the recipient. A customer could simply acknowledge receiving the mail on their app from any location, and the package would be safety locked away. This cuts down on mail the courier needs to keep track of and saves the recipient a trip to the post office.

Sensors in the mailbox could also measure the outside environment, reporting through the app to the mail courier and recipient recommendations on whether a temperature-sensitive package could survive the current climate. A customer could decide the instant the courier arrives at their box how they would like the package to be delivered: Go ahead and put it in the box – you never planned to eat that fruit cake anyway! This improves customer satisfaction and decreases liability for the courier. Specially equipped smart mailboxes could even have temperature-controlled compartments, so that box of chocolates is safe after all!

Smarter Post Offices

With Bluetooth Low Energy technology, customers could be greeted via an app on their phones the instant they enter the post office. Customers could select the reason for their visit (mailing a package), be electronically provided any info they need to provide (the recipient’s address) and directed to a specific counter all before ever speaking with a representative. This would provide more efficient customer service and reduce wait times – a common inconvenience during the holiday season.

For post office workers, augmented reality glasses could aid in instantly locating packages in a storeroom, drastically reducing the time it takes to search manually. AR could also help in calculating which specifically sized box a customer needs to send their gifts.

IoT for Package Monitoring

With the help of IoT, mail couriers could have their routes updated in real-time, whether to go around holiday traffic or respond to new delivery or pick-up requests. Sensors in post offices, vehicles, and mailboxes could scan packages the instant they cross a threshold, reducing the time involved in manual scanning and the rate of lost packages. Sensors in vehicles could also monitor temperature-sensitive goods.

All these advances in technology have the potential to provide a more efficient postal service and greater customer satisfaction – adding a little bit more cheer to the holiday season.