AI is already a big part of the parcel delivery sector, integrated into tracking and notifications of delivery status. Self-driving delivery trucks, delivery robots and drones are in limited use in select regions. But at the end of the delivery road, the curbside mailbox, not much has changed since the 1850’s.
Arrive Technology Inc. is poised to digitally transform this specific sector soon.
The company’s smart mailbox will arrive at a time when the parcel delivery sector, already shipping huge volumes across the world daily, is predicted to grow at an even steeper rate. Every day, 58 million parcels are shipped throughout the U.S. That is 678 parcels every second, many of them carried by hand at some point in that “last mile,” the final phase of the delivery process, and left unsecured at front doors. According to a Pitney Bowes survey, the mail delivery sector will grow from 21.2 billion packages shipped annually in 2022, to 28 billion by 2028.
Traffic congestion and long distances between multiple stops delay the arrival of parcels during the final leg of delivery, and packages left at front doors are very attractive to porch pirates. With customers demanding quicker delivery times, and more security for their parcels, AI is being applied to transform the ubiquitous mailbox into an updated version that can sync with drones and delivery robots to accept, and secure parcels. Nearly eight out of ten Americans were victims of delivery theft in 2022, according to the survey.
In the race to patent the first smart mailbox, the private company Arrive Technology Inc. narrowly out-leaned the competition, securing patents on its smart mailbox in December 2014, beating out Amazon by days and the United States Postal Service by weeks, according to the Fishers, IN-based company. Arrive’s patent has a 20-year time horizon.
“The smart mailbox system will allow a drone to deliver to it, keeping the packages secure and guarded from the weather, and thieves will no longer have easy access to customer’s valuable deliveries,” said Arrive CEO Dan O’Toole, in an interview with Techstrong.ai.
The journal Scientific Reports stated in a published report on October 29, 2023, that the parcel delivery sector could benefit greatly from improvements in last-mile logistics. “The last-mile logistics of freight distribution is a critical and challenging aspect of the supply chain. It is often the least efficient and most expensive stage accounting for up to 28% of delivery transportation costs, and is a considerable source of congestion and other externalities, such as pollution and noise. These inefficiencies and negative impacts on citizen well-being make improving last-mile logistics a priority for businesses and policymakers alike.” The report is titled, “Robots at your doorstep: acceptance of near-future technologies for automated parcel delivery.”
Arrive’s smart mailbox can automatically slide the top cover off the accept drone deliveries, and open a front hatch to accept deliveries from robots and humans. It has climate control to keep warm foods warm and perishable items that need to be cold, chilled. It has a UV light to disinfect parcels, and exterior lights that can flash to alert first responders of the exact location should a 911 call be made from the address.
The company has plans to integrate facial recognition and other biometric screening technology into its mailbox to make it even more secure. The mailboxes will come if different sizes for residential and commercial customers, and there is a multifamily version available for condominium developments. The residential mailboxes will be secured to concrete bases, and hard-wired, and come with anti-tamper features and cameras that can function as another layer of residential surveillance.
The company’s name was originally DroneDek but was recently changed to reflect that its product was more than just a drop off for drones. The company conducted a pilot program in the city of Lawrence, IN, in 2022, in partnership with the United States Postal Service, Uber Eats, DoorDash and McDonald’s.
“We are in the process of looking at additional features, like reverse logistics, where a customer can use our app to return a product, by simply touching the return button on the app, so that Amazon can pick it up from the mailbox, without any labels or receipts having to be printed out, so obviously this makes it much easier for the customer,” Mr. O’Toole said. Through the app, customers will be able to track their parcel and get notifications of deliveries.
Mr. O’Toole added that versions of the smart mailbox will be created to fit on vehicles such as boats, recreational vehicles and even on tanks for the military.