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DropTag will let you know when and if your parcel has been dropped

By

February 7, 2013

A prototype DropTag

A prototype DropTag

Image Gallery (3 images)

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

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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5 Comments

As a FedEx delivery driver this article caught my eye. A product that has to go from a shipper to a truck to another sort then onto another truck and then unloaded at a Fed Ex Terminal has a 50/50 chance of being dropped or "bumped". The onus is always on the shipper to pack their packages as good as possible.

Also, Customers aren't allowed to open packages before accepting responsibility/signing.

Brent Carden
7th February, 2013 @ 04:09 pm PST

Ace Ventura doesn't stand a chance!

Fahrenheit 451
7th February, 2013 @ 05:09 pm PST

A cheaper alternative exits thats cheaper and easier to use...

http://www.uline.com/BL_1053/Shockwatch?pricode=WB141&gclid=CICLhsfLprUCFZSf4AodcWcA5w

Shockwatch is pretty much a standard and doesn't require a phone to see the status of the "sensor". Mind you its geared for indicating an exceeded g force rather than logging...but still...

Helicopterjeff
8th February, 2013 @ 03:26 am PST

Adding to Brent Cardan's excellent point above, there will be resistance from the product's producer on two levels:

1) the cost. $2 per package is a HUGE addition to the cost of shipping and/or the product cost (because you can bet the customer will be the one paying that $2.

2) the resulting geometric expansion of the % of returns based on the "dropped" nature of the delivery. Returns are a cost and a big one at that. Something like 18 to 25% of shipped products are returned annually. Take FedEX Brent's number of drops above, throw in this product and that number will go up by a factor of at least 2X.

Joseph Boe
9th February, 2013 @ 09:11 am PST

Nobody is going to add a $2 sensor to a $10 item but you have to understand there are industries that FedEx/UPS gear worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There aren't that many but for $2 it could be worth tagging laptops, tables, cell phones, and your airport luggage (though they may be banned for transmitting wirelessly).

UPS/FedEx themselves could randomly tag some packages just for their scanners to read them along the route to QA their methods.

I've seen tons of packages with Shockwatch tags before, sometimes they are tripped but because shipping containers are often re-used and nobody replaces the Shockwatch sensor so there is no telling how long it has been tripped.

Daishi
10th February, 2013 @ 03:57 am PST
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