Gate smart mailbox combines snail mail and the Internet of Things

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The Mailbox sensor

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In an age of Twitter, Facebook, and texting, a physical mailbox may seem like a relic of the dead (letter) past, but postal theft is still a big problem and people still get annoyed at fruitless journeys to the curb. The Gate smart mailbox is a 21st century variation on the old switch-and-doorbell mailbox alert setup that not only lets you know when the post arrives, but is also intended to combat theft.

Billed as an "industry first", (similar systems notwithstanding), Gate is the focus of a crowdfunding campaign running through June 20. The digital system is is designed to be fitted to standard US mailboxes instead of using a purpose built one and is aimed at those concerned with postal theft, the elderly or mobility impaired, and those who are just keen on when the post arrives.

Gate consists of two main units, the first of which is the Home unit that acts as a control center for the system and connects to the user's smartphone. The other half is the Mailbox unit, which – surprise, surprise – attaches to the mailbox and contains motion sensors to detect when the box is opened. It connects to the Home unit at a range of up to 500 ft (150 m) by means of a 915 MHz TI radio transceiver, with an optional solar power and range-extending antenna also on offer – although these do require a bit of skill with drilling and wiring as well as a mailbox with a sunny side.

When deliveries are made or when the box is opened at a suspicious time, such as when a stranger is checking the contents, the system sends alerts to the user by means of the Home unit, text, email, or Twitter. It can also send alerts to an Apple Watch, while the Home unit also connects to home automation and security systems, such as ADT Pulse, AT&T Digital Life, and Nexia Home Intelligence.

Gate can also create a distributed network with other Gate mailboxes in the area – user permitting. Using Wi-Fi and a 128-bit encrypted secure internet server connection to share data, over time it can produce a more accurate picture of when the mail is scheduled to arrive, when the box is opened, and when it's being opened at a time that might indicate theft. There's also a time-delayed override button to avoid false alarms.

If the Kickstarter campaign is successful and everything goes to plan, Gate is estimated to ship in December. It is set to retail at US$279, but early bird crowdfunding backers can stake a claim for one at $199.

Source: Gate

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