Sunday, 29 December 2013

Digital Keys to help Amazon Drone's deliver parcels

The Internet has been buzzing since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the concept of using drones for home deliveries on America's 60 minutes TV program in early December 2013.

An Amazon Drone arriving at a house.

For those that have missed the buzz, the drones aka "Amazon Prime Air" aims to deliver packages within 30 minutes of the order being placed with the help of drones flying directly from Amazon’s "fulfillment centers" (i.e. warehouses) sprinkled around the country. See the 60 minutes video here

There has been many articles, video's, and tweets challenging whether the concept is a possibility or whether its just a publicity stunt. There has been many parodies and problems stories, and many creative idea's about taking the concept even further.

So what have the Amazon Drones got to do with Digital Keys?

We think quite a bit - we think that Digital Keys will help address some of the problems or weaknesses with the Amazon's drones which have been pointed out by many journalists.

In this blog we'll tackle the problems of the drones "delivery" and "timing" using Digital Keys. In offering solutions, we'll make a few assumptions, and the first assumption we'll make is that drones will be a reality in the next 4-5 years.

Delivery and Timing

Q1: How will Amazon accommodate those customers who want packages delivered to a specific area - and what about timing?

More background - In the Amazon Drone video aired on 60 minutes it showed a drone delivering the package to a person's backyard. The person then walked out the door, retrieved the package, and went back inside. Some homeowners prefer packages be left in the atrium or breezeway to their houses, as opposed to being left outside exposed. So what if the customer lives in an apartment building or an office building? Will the drone be able to fly up to the 12th floor? If the Amazon Prime Air cannot go indoors, how will the drone be able to verify and authenticate the identity of the customer? Customers won’t care about the Amazon drone if the package wasn’t delivered correctly, or sufficiently. If the drones are all being timed, will a drone wait around for a customer to greet it, or will it drop the package and fly off to attend to the next order? The drones may be on time, but what happens if the customer is late? Will the drone accommodate and wait for the customer to arrive before it leaves? What if the package arrives after 30 minutes?

Dude picks up package from backyard

Short Answer: Parcel Delivery Boxes with Digital Keys

Answer Explanation: Forget about drones for a second and think about how your parcels are delivered to you now - are they delivered inside your letterbox?- did you answer "no"? - your letterbox is not big enough to take parcels right? So you have to be home to greet the delivery driver, or pick up your parcel from a locker or Post Office. 

Some commentators have even said that the "holy grail" of e-commerce parcel delivery is to bring the humble home letterbox into the 21st century. At the moment all your letterbox does is accept letters and bills. So having said all that "why on earth don't we have parcel delivery boxes at our homes, in front of apartment buildings, in front of office buildings?

So getting back to the drones, if we placed delivery boxes in front of our homes, apartment buildings, and offices, then the drones could drop them in theses boxes right, solving the delivery and timing problem right? 

Sounds simple - but the drones are not remotely controlled by humans. They are pre-programmed with the delivery destination with GPS. And as most of us know, GPS is not precise. GPS generally only gets us within around 20 - 100 metres.  

That's where Bluetooth homing beacons step in - read more about a Bluetooth homing beacon here. 

The drone can have a Bluetooth receiver on it - i.e like your phone. And when it arrives at the address, the beacon in the parcel delivery box will guide the drone down to the box. Great - but how will the box open?

That's where Digital Keys step in -Digital Keys Locks often use technologies such as Bluetooth and NFC to enable opening of the lock. Many start-ups and lock manufacturers have been working on bringing lock opening using Bluetooth and/or NFC paired with your phone, so that you don't even have to take your phone out of your pocket to open the door(you can read more about examples on this blog). So with a Digital Key lock on the door of a delivery box, it opens with Bluetooth when the drone arrives, and the door locks back again after the drone dumps the parcel (the door would open from the top or the side with a slide feature). 

The Digital Key lock will also use NFC and Bluetooth to allow for confirmation and verification back to the drone, which then communicates back to the Amazon system to confirm delivery, and it sends you a text message and email confirmation.  

The Parcel Delivery Box with the Digital Keys also solves the problem of timing. Lets face it - the majority of the population do not live within 30 minutes drone flight of an Amazon Warehouse (fulfillment centre). So the majority of the population won't be able to sit around and wait eagerly for their delivery within 30 minutes as if they ordered a Pizza from the local delivery store. 

So the simple solution to this Amazon is "remove the 30 minute promise". Parcel Delivery Boxes with Digital Keys means that the parcel can be delivered at anytime 24/7 - perhaps its could be "within a 24 hour promise". 

What do you think, will you install a Parcel Delivery Box with Digital Keys on your property in readiness for drone delivery? Whilst we are waiting for the Drones to come online, the Parcel Delivery Box with Digital Keys can also be a great way to securely receive your parcels from Delivery companies. 

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