If you’re like most people, you probably just sign for a delivered parcel upon receiving it at your front door. You really ought to open it and check that its contents are intact first, but who wants to bother doing that? Well, if the DropTag makes its way into production, a quick check on your smartphone will be all that’s needed to tell you if your goods have arrived unharmed.

The DropTag is being developed by UK-based Cambridge Consultants – the same folks who have brought us such goodies as an automatic bicycle transmission, a waterless washing machine, and a multi-touch computer mouse.

The idea behind the Bluetooth-transmitting DropTag is that it will be applied to parcels before they leave their source, and then checked by receiving parties – using a custom app on their phone – before they agree to sign for the delivery. If the parcel was dropped somewhere in its travels, the DropTag’s accelerometer will record the incident, and notify the receiver that it happened. Depending on the item, the recipient might still agree to take it, but at least they’ll know to check its condition first.

Of course, the parcel could have been dropped before it even left the sender. That’s why the developers are also working on a logging function, which will allow the DropTag to report when the incident took place. They’re also investigating adding additional sensors, that might for instance indicate if items that need to be kept cool were allowed to get too warm.

Because the DropTag could be "read" by anyone with a mobile device running the app, up to a maximum indoor range of about 50 meters (164 feet), it could also be checked at any point in its journey. This means that personnel in warehouses, post offices or courier depots could confirm that packages were still in good shape, before sending them along to their next stop.

If things go according to plan, the device should only cost about US$2, and might be reusable. It’s powered by a single coin-cell battery, that should allow for “many weeks” of continuous use.

More information is available in the video below.

Source: Cambridge Consultants via New Scientist