Though consumers can make substantial savings by purchasing goods online, the modern shopping experience does have some drawbacks. Chief among those is making sure that someone is home to receive the package. Online tracking tools can help, but Irish start-up Parcelhome reckons that anywhere between 15 and 50 percent of deliveries fail on the first attempt, meaning that the customer has to schedule another delivery or arrange to pick up from a drop off point. The company's Smart Box letterbox is currently undergoing pilot testing in Belgium in collaboration with carriers DHL, GLS and DPD. Once installed, it allows couriers to make secure home deliveries any time without the need for the customer to be there to receive the package, with a companion app notifying the recipient when the delivery has been made.
One of a number of tech-focused, customer-centric parcel delivery solutions in development around the world, including delivery by drone, vehicle drop off and underground moles, the Smart Box pilot has been 18 months in research and development and is reported capable of receiving 95 percent of all parcel deliveries. The pilot is believed to be the first time that multiple carriers have collaborated on such a scheme, which runs from this month until July and involves 100 homes in Mechelen, near Brussels.
"People don't want to organize solutions, work around time slots, take half a day off or ask neighbors or friends to wait around," said GLS CEO Luc De Schrijver. "Thanks to parcelhome.com, they no longer have to."
Package carriers, and even local shops and supermarkets, can gain access to a locked smart letterbox via a companion smartphone app. Customers will also have a version of the app running on their smartphones to keep them informed of delivery progress, gain access themselves and allow trusted family members or neighbors to use the box.
"In the course of the pilot we will also trial delivery of local goods, such as bakery and dry cleaning," Parcelhome's Luc van Bosstraeten revealed. "The system is totally secure and works with dynamic codes comparable to the codes used in online banking. The built-in scale issues a receipt, and the system can receive multiple packages from different carriers. As soon as a package is placed in the parcelhome.com unit, the addressee is notified."
If a customer needs to return goods to an online retailer or manufacturer, the Smart Box is capable of calculating the delivery fee and franking the package, ahead of pickup by the parcel carrier.
Parcelhome says that it hopes a successful conclusion to the Belgian pilot would fuel an expansion throughout the Benelux region by the end of 2015, before moving into the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK.